Xi delivers important speech at Central Economic Work Conference

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The Central Economic Work Conference was held in Beijing from December 11 to 12. Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, Chinese president and chairman of the Central Military Commission, attended the conference and delivered an important speech. Members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, including Li Qiang, Zhao Leji, Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Ding Xuexiang and Li Xi, also attended the conference.

In his speech, Xi summarized the economic work in 2023, analyzed the current economic situation and made arrangements for 2024. Premier Li Qiang delivered a summary speech, in which he called for implementing the guiding principles of Xi’s speech and better carrying out economic work in 2024.

The following is a summary of the conference.

This year marks the first year to faithfully implement the guiding principles of the 20th CPC National Congress on all fronts and is a year for economic recovery following three years of COVID-19 prevention and control, according to the meeting. Under the leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Xi at its core, the entire Party and the people of different ethnic groups have withstood external pressures, overcome internal difficulties and deepened reform and opening-up. They have strengthened macroeconomic regulation and control, expanded domestic demand, optimized structures, boosted confidence, and worked to prevent and defuse risks. As a result, China’s economy has shown signs of recovery, progress has been achieved in high-quality development, and important advancement made in the building of a modern industrial system. Breakthroughs have been made in scientific and technological innovation, while the reform and opening-up have been deepened and a more solid foundation has been laid for development and security. Besides, people’s well-being has been effectively promoted as the nation has striven to build itself into a modern socialist country.

It was pointed out at the conference that some difficulties and challenges must be tackled to achieve further economic recovery. Those include a lack of effective demand, overcapacity in some industries, weak social expectations and many hidden risks. There are bottlenecks in the domestic economic flow, and the external environment is increasingly complex, severe and uncertain. It is necessary to be vigilant against potential risks and effectively address these problems. 

Generally speaking, the favorable conditions for China’s development outweigh the unfavorable ones, the overall trend of economic recovery and long-term improvement remains unchanged, and confidence and determination must be boosted, according to the meeting.

In recent years, under the strong leadership of the Party Central Committee, China has effectively coordinated the domestic and international situations, achieved economic and social development against the backdrop of COVID-19 prevention and control, according to the meeting. The country has also ensured both development and security and deepened understanding of how economic work should be done in the new era. It is imperative to uphold high-quality development as the unyielding principle of the new era, faithfully implement the new development philosophy on all fronts and effectively improve the quality of the economy and promote its growth within a reasonable range. China must persist in deepening supply-side structural reform and focus on coordinated efforts to expand effective demand, leveraging the advantages of the vast market and robust production capacity, ensuring that the domestic economic flow is based on the proactive force of domestic demand, and improving the quality and level of international economic flow. It is crucial to strengthen the endogenous driving force for development through reform and opening-up, ensure the advancement of both profound reforms and high-level opening-up, continuously liberate and develop social productivity, and stimulate and enhance social vitality. China must maintain a healthy interaction between high-quality development and high-level security, with the former to promote the latter, and the latter to secure the former, and a dynamic balance is maintained between both. Promoting Chinese modernization must be upheld as the foremost politics. Under the unified leadership of the CPC, work should be done to unite the broadest masses of the people and focus on economic development as the central task and high-quality development as the primary mission, gradually turning the magnificent blueprint of Chinese modernization into reality.

It was emphasized at the meeting that to do a good job in the economic work next year, it is necessary to follow the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, fully implement the guiding principles of the 20th CPC National Congress and the Second Plenary Session of the 20th CPC Central Committee, adhere to the general principle of seeking progress while maintaining stability, and faithfully implement the new development philosophy on all fronts. It is also essential to accelerate the forging of a new development paradigm, focus on promoting high-quality development, comprehensively deepen reform and opening-up, and build self-reliance and strength in high-level science and technology. It is imperative to intensify macro regulation, do a good job both in expanding domestic demand and deepening supply-side structural reform, ensure both new urbanization and rural revitalization across the board, and secure both high-quality development and high-level security. It is important to boost economic vitality, prevent and mitigate risks, improve social expectations, consolidate and promote the momentum of economic recovery, and effectively improve the quality of the economy and promote its growth within a reasonable range. It is important to improve people’s well-being, maintain social stability, and make further progress in building China into a strong country and realizing the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation through a path to Chinese modernization.

It was emphasized at the meeting that next year, it is necessary to adhere to the general principle of seeking progress while maintaining stability, promoting stability through progress, and establishing the new before abolishing the old. It will be essential to implement policies that are conducive to stabilizing expectations, growth, and employment. More efforts will be needed when it comes to taking proactive measures in transforming methods, adjusting structures, raising quality, and increasing efficiency, with a view to continuously strengthening the foundation for stability and improvement. It is imperative to strengthen counter-cyclical and cross-cyclical adjustment of macroeconomic policies, continue to implement proactive fiscal policies and prudent monetary policies, and enhance policy innovation and coordination.

Proactive fiscal policies should be appropriately strengthened and their effectiveness improved. China should make good use of fiscal policy to improve the efficiency of funds and effectiveness of policies, optimize the structure of fiscal expenditures and strengthen the financial support for major national strategic tasks, reasonably expand the scope of local government special bonds for capital purposes, do a good job in implementing structural tax cuts and fee reductions with a focus on supporting technological innovation and the development of the manufacturing industry, strictly supervise the transfer of payment funds and enforce financial discipline, strengthen fiscal sustainability and never cross the line in securing people’s basic livelihoods, salaries for the public sector and government’s operation at the grassroots level. General expenditures should be strictly controlled. Party and government departments should get used to working within a limited budget.

Prudent monetary policies should be flexible, moderate, precise, and effective. The country should maintain a reasonable and sufficient liquidity level that matches the growth of social financing and the money supply with the expected targets for economic growth and price levels, make good use of monetary policy tools to improve their effectiveness, activate existing stocks, and guide financial institutions to increase support for technological innovation, green transformation, small and micro enterprises, and the digital economy, promote a stable and moderate decline in the overall cost of social financing, and maintain the basic stability of the RMB exchange rate at a reasonable and balanced level.

The meeting urged to enhance the consistency of macroeconomic policy orientation, strengthen coordination in fiscal, monetary, employment, industrial, regional, technological, and environmental policies, and include non-economic policies in the evaluation of the consistency of macroeconomic policy orientation, strengthen policy coordination to ensure consistent efforts and form a synergy. It is imperative to boost publicity concerning economic situation and guide public opinion to create a narrative about the bright prospects of China’s economy.

It was stressed at the meeting that next year China shall focus on promoting high-quality development, give prominence to key areas, grasp key points, and carry out economic work in a down-to-earth manner. 

First, technological innovation will be promoted to support the development of a modern industrial system. China will promote industrial innovation through technological innovation, especially by using ground-breaking and cutting-edge technologies to foster new industries, new models and growth drivers, and develop new productive forces, improve the new national system for mobilizing nationwide resources, implement high-quality development actions for key industrial chains in the manufacturing industry, strengthen quality support and standard leadership, and boost the resilience and safety of industrial and supply chains. It will be essential to vigorously promote new industrialization, develop the digital economy, and accelerate the development of artificial intelligence. China will develop a number of strategic emerging industries such as bio-manufacturing, commercial aerospace, and low-altitude economy, open up new paths for future industries such as quantum and life sciences, and make extensive use of digital intelligence and green technologies to accelerate the transformation and upgrading of traditional industries. The country will strengthen basic research in applied sciences and cutting-edge research, boost the principal role of enterprises in scientific and technological innovation, and encourage the development of venture capital and equity investment.

Second, China will focus on expanding domestic demand. It will be necessary to tap consumption potential and expand effective investment, so as to form a virtuous cycle between consumption and investment. China will shift consumption from post-epidemic recovery to sustained expansion, foster and expand new types of consumption, vigorously develop digital, green and health promotion consumption, and actively develop new consumption growth points such as smart homes, entertainment and tourism, sports events, and domestic and China chic goods. Efforts will be made to stabilize and expand traditional consumption, and boost spending on big-ticket items such as new energy vehicles and electronic products, increase the income of urban and rural residents, expand the size of the middle-income group, and improve consumption environment. To raise the standards of technology, energy and emissions, it will be necessary to promote large-scale upgrading of equipment and the replacement of old consumer goods with new ones. Work will be done to give full play to the multiplier effect of government investment, focus on supporting research in key and core technologies, new infrastructure, energy conservation, emission and carbon reduction, and cultivate new drivers of economic growth. China will improve investment and financing mechanisms, implement new mechanisms for cooperation between the government and private capital, and support private capital’s participation in new infrastructure and other areas.

Third, China will deepen reform in key areas. It will be necessary to plan major measures to further reform in all areas and inject strong impetus into promoting high-quality development and advancing Chinese modernization. It will be important to improve and implement institutions and mechanisms to unswervingly consolidate and develop the public sector and unswervingly support the development of the non-public sector and fully stimulate the endogenous power and innovation vitality of various business entities. The country will deepen and upgrade the reform of state-owned enterprises to strengthen their core functions and core competitiveness, implement a number of measures in market access, access to factors of production, fair law enforcement, and protection of rights and interests to promote the development and growth of private enterprises, encourage small and medium-sized enterprises to increase their capacity to turn out products that are new, unique, specialized and sophisticated, speed up the development of a unified national market, and strive to break down local protection and market segmentation, and reduce the logistics costs. It will be necessary to plan a new round of reform of the fiscal and tax systems, and implement financial system reform.

Fourth, high-level opening-up will be expanded. It will be imperative to foster new drivers of foreign trade, reinforce the stable performance in foreign trade and foreign investment, and expand trade in intermediate goods, trade in services, digital trade and exports of cross-border e-commerce. Market access in service industries such as telecommunications and healthcare will be further relaxed, and problems related to issues such as cross-border flow of data and equitable participation in government procurement shall be solved conscientiously in alignment with high-standard international economic and trade rules, so as to continue the efforts to foster a world-class business environment that is market-oriented, law-based, and internationalized, and promote the brand of “Invest in China.” Barriers shall be removed to make it easy for foreigners to do business, study and travel in China. Efforts will be made to ensure that the eight major steps China will take to support the development of high-quality Belt and Road Initiative are taken to the letter, and ensure that both major signature projects and “small yet smart” livelihood programs are promoted.

Fifth, risks in key areas will be prevented and defused in a continuous and effective manner. Coordinated efforts will be required to defuse risks in the real estate sector, local government debt and small and medium-sized financial institutions, and strict law enforcement is required to crack down on illegal financial activities, so as to ensure no systemic risks arise. Active and steady steps should be taken to address risks in the real estate sector, reasonable financing needs for real estate enterprises under different ownership should be met equally to ensure stable and sound development of the real estate market. Efforts will also be accelerated to advance the construction of affordable housing and public infrastructure for both normal and emergency use and the renovation of “villages” in cities. Relevant foundational systems will be upgraded to speed up the building of a new development mode for the real estate market. A balance will be stricken between addressing local government debt risks and stable development, and major economically developed provinces should play a leading role to make greater contributions to the steady growth of the national economy.

Sixth, sustained efforts will be made to do a good job in the work related to agriculture, rural areas and farmers. With the goal of building up China’s strength in agriculture, it will be imperative to learn from and apply the experience from the Green Rural Revival Program, and advance rural revitalization in all respects in an effective manner. Work must be done to ensure national food security, and that no large number of rural residents become poverty-stricken again. Efforts must be made to promote the development of rural industries, the rural areas and rural governance. At the same time, the strengths of science and technology and reform should be leveraged, and measures intensified to increase rural residents’ incomes, and strengths should be pooled to do things from which residents can get immediate benefits, so as to build a beautiful and harmonious countryside that is desirable to live and work in. No efforts should be spared to secure the stable and safe supply of grain and other important agricultural products. Ways should be explored to build mechanisms on interest compensation between major grain production provinces and those that need supply of grain from other provinces. The system for offsetting cultivated land used for other purposes should be reformed and improved, and the standard for input in the cultivation of high-standard cropland should be raised. It will be imperative to adopt an all-encompassing approach to agriculture and food, and build China’s agriculture into a modernized major sector.

Seventh, China will promote integrated development of rural and urban areas and coordinated regional development. By combining new urbanization and comprehensive rural revitalization, China will facilitate the two-way flows of various production factors and promote the new urbanization centered on county seats to generate a new mode of integrated urban and rural development. The meeting demanded to carry out urban renewal projects and improve urban infrastructure to build livable, resilient, and smart cities, give full scope to the comparative advantages of various regions and, by following the main functional positioning, actively serve the forging of a new development paradigm, improve the distribution of major productive forces and strengthen the construction of national strategic hinterland, develop the marine economy, and step up efforts to build China into a strong maritime country.

Eighth, China will further strengthen ecological conservation and pursue green and low-carbon development. China will set up model zones for building a Beautiful China and create hubs for green and low-carbon development, work actively and prudently toward the goals of reaching carbon emissions peaking and carbon neutrality, and accelerate the building of a green and low-carbon supply chain, make sustained efforts to keep the country’s skies blue, waters clear, and lands clean. China will establish mechanisms to realize the market value of ecosystem goods, deepen the reform of collective forest tenure, speed up the planning and development of a system for new energy sources, conserve resources of all types and use them efficiently, and ensure greater security of energy and resources. 

Ninth, China will make down-to-earth efforts to secure and improve people’s livelihoods, do everything within its capacity and means to make sure that people’s livelihoods are secured. Employment will be given priority to ensure employment of key groups. China will build a solid social security net and improve the multi-tiered and categorized social assistance system, speed up the improvement of policies to boost birth rates and promote the senior-citizens economy for high-quality population development.

The importance was emphasized at the meeting to fully understand the CPC Central Committee’s sound judgment of the economic situation and effectively strengthen the sense of responsibility and mission in doing a good job in economic work. It will be essential to make use of all opportunities and conditions to do as much as possible once the right decision is made and try to deal with the uncertainties of the current situation with the certainty of own endeavors. It will be imperative to comprehensively implement the requirements for next year’s economic work, strike a balance between speed and quality, between macro data and micro feelings, between promoting economic development and improving people’s livelihoods, and between seeking development and ensuring security. This shall be how China will continuously consolidate and promote the positive momentum of economic recovery. It is essential to accurately grasp the policy orientation of next year’s economic work, and policy implementation should be guided by strengthening synergy and coordination and magnifying the combined effects. Policy foresight should focus on building up reserves in advance and leaving room for redundancy; and policy evaluation should stress effectiveness and the people’s sense of fulfillment, thus China will strive to boost the effectiveness of macro policies in supporting high-quality development.

It will be important to emphasize the methods and approaches for advancing work, grasp the major issues, break through bottlenecks, and focus on forward-looking planning to ensure the implementation of next year’s key economic tasks. It is important to work hard with determination, have a broad vision for the nation, boldly take responsibility and excel in whatever work one does, strengthen coordination, and actively plan to effectively utilize whatever driving and leveraging forces to promote high-quality development in a down-to-earth manner.

It was emphasized at the meeting that it is important to uphold and strengthen the overall leadership of the Party, thoroughly implement the CPC Central Committee’s decisions and arrangements on economic work, and ensure that the final outcomes align with the intentions of the CPC Central Committee. Swift and decisive action must be taken in implementation, coordinating the timing, intensity and effectiveness. Practical efforts must be made in implementation, allowing no room for pointless formalities and bureaucracy. Bold measures must be taken in a judicious manner in implementation, maintaining correct approach in the use of personnel to fully unleash the initiative, creativity, and enthusiasm of leading officials at all levels. What has been achieved in the theoretical study program must be consolidated, expanded and thus transformed into effective drivers for high-quality development.

It was required at the meeting that work must be done to secure the supply and ensure stable prices of important daily necessities at the end of the year and the beginning of the coming year, ensure the timely and full payment of wages to migrant workers, care for the production and living conditions of the needy, and thoroughly implement the responsibility system for workplace safety to safeguard the lives, property, and health of the people.

The meeting called on the entire Party to closely unite around the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, to boost confidence, forge ahead, and strive to achieve the various targets and tasks of economic and social development. Everyone was urged to make new and greater contributions to comprehensively advancing the building of a strong country and realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation through practical actions and achievements in high-quality development.

Members of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, secretaries of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, leaders of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, State Councilors, president of the Supreme People’s Court, procurator-general of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, relevant leaders of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, as well as members of the Central Military Commission, attended the meeting.

Also present at the meeting were leading officials of provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities directly under the central government, municipalities with independent budgetary status, and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, as well as leading officials from relevant central Party and government departments, people’s organizations, some financial institutions and enterprises under central management, and leading officials of the relevant departments of the Central Military Commission. 

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