Chinese and US flags flutter near the federal government before the US trade delegation meets its Chinese counterparts for talks on July 30, 2019 in Shanghai, China.
Aly Song | Reuters
BEIJING – As the Chinese authorities prepare to build their country over the next few years, they want to make sure the rest of the world continues to do business with them.
At a high-level press conference on Friday, central government officials stressed the need for other countries to work with China amid mounting global uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic and protectionism. The media The event takes place when China's top leadership concludes an important political meeting aimed at setting the country's economic and social priorities for the next five years.
In particular, officials pushed against a "decoupling" or complete separation of the US and Chinese economies that President Donald Trump's administration has advocated, starting with technology. Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei has been severely hampered by US restrictions for the past two years.
"Decoupling is fundamentally not realistic and has no benefit for China, the US or the whole world," said Han Wenxiu, deputy director in the office of the Central Finance and Economics Commission. That comes from a CNBC translation of his Mandarin remarks.
"Those who want decoupling are few. Those who want cooperation are far more," Han said, noting that the US and China can only be the two largest economies in the world because they are complementary and in one operate in an open global environment.
The US is China's largest trading partner, but the two countries have been in tension for more than two years. Each government has put tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods from the other country. Critics say the dominance of the state in China's economy gives it an unfair advantage over American companies and other foreign companies.
Economists expect China to become the largest economy in the world in the next few years, outperforming the US. To reduce economic reliance on debt-driven investment and the manufacture of goods for export, China has sought to increase its reliance on domestic consumption.
Foreign trade still accounts for around 30% of China's gross domestic product, according to Han, which previously saw a 60% decline.
"Looking to the future, China's imports and exports, the use of foreign capital and the level of overseas investment will increase and its international status will increase," he said. "This is also an important characteristic of a large country's economy."
"Autonomy" in technology
Han and four other central government officials spoke the day after preliminary details were released on a plan for economic development from 2021 to 2025, also known as the 14th Five-Year Plan. This week's meeting of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee also looked at the goals for 2035.
The meeting, according to state media, stressed China's need to pursue "self-reliance" in technology as a strategy for national development. The country has accelerated its own development of critical technologies like semiconductors and a navigation system to keep up with the US Global Positioning System (GPS).
While describing China's need for a new phase of development, officials were quick to point out how the country needs to learn from international expertise.
"China's technological innovation has never been a closed innovation, and in the future it will not close its doors to innovate by itself," Science and Technology Minister Wang Zhigang said during Friday's press conference, according to a CNBC translation of his Mandarin remarks.
The aim is to build a “modern” society
In the press release on the 2035 targets, China's leaders said they would focus on building a "modern socialist China" that includes modernizing national defense and the military.
The emphasis on "modern" comes after the ruling party announced on Thursday that it would keep its promise to build a "moderately prosperous society" by next year, when the Chinese Communist Party celebrates its 100th anniversary.
The press release also said that Beijing expects GDP to exceed 100 trillion yuan (about $ 14.9 trillion) this year, which would represent an increase of at least 0.9% from 2019. In the long term, according to China, the authorities wanted to become "a strong country in the fields of culture, education, talent, sports and health."