April 2022 Politburo Meeting
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April 2022 Politburo Meeting

Politburo’s April meeting focused on addressing the mounting economic difficulties the country is facing, and deliberated the 14th Five-Year National Talent Development Plan.

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The Politburo met on April 29 to discuss the economy and deliberate the National Talent Development Plan during the 14th Five-Year Period [2021-2025]. 

On the economy, the Politburo meeting stressed the increasing “complexity, severity, and uncertainty” facing China’s economic development environment due to a combination of factors, including COVID-19 and the Ukraine crisis. 

To tackle the economic challenges facing growth, employment and prices, the Politburo has called for using extensive macro and monetary policy means to stabilize the economy. These measures include, for example, relief packages for sectors affected by COVID-19 and tax rebates and tax cuts.

Indeed, China is encountering severe economic headwinds. April data (published on May 17) show China’s export and retail sales figures have plummeted amid draconian COVID-19 measures and lockdowns.

On COVID-19 measures, the Politburo meeting insisted the need to “persist in the dynamic zero policy” while “minimis[ing] the epidemic’s impact on socio-economic development”. Here lay a palpable contradiction: Beijing’s zero-COVID policy is itself the reason for much social and economic disruption.

The insistence on Zero-COVID was confirmed a week later (on May 5) with strong language from the Politburo Standing Committee meeting: “[we must] not waver in adhering to the general policy of “dynamic zero” and resolutely struggle against any speech or actions that distort, doubt or refute China’s epidemic prevention policies.”

The focus of the Politburo meeting on April 29 and its Standing Committee meeting on May 5 underlines the tensions between the economy on the one hand, and COVID-19 measures on the other. While the former meeting stressed stabilizing the economy, the latter stressed the need to adhere to Zero-COVID. Watching how Beijing balances the two in the coming month will give us insights into its priorities and internal Party dynamics. But in any case, there is little likelihood that Beijing will publicly abandon Zero-COVID even if it shifts quietly away from the stringent measures that have made it so unpopular with parts of the Chinese public.

In addition to the economy and COVID-19, the Politburo meeting also deliberated the National Talent Development Plan during the 14th Five-Year Period [2021-2025].  

Last September, the Central Conference on Talent Work was held in Beijing (the one before that was held in May 2010). At the conference, Xi Jinping called for a redoubling of efforts to build up China’s talent in support of its national ambitions in technology and science. He also set goals for talent work for 2025, 2030, and 2035:

“Our goals by 2025 are to significantly increase the investment into R&D expenditure across the entire society; make important progress in building [our] main force of scientific and technological innovation; significantly lift the [relative] concentration of top scientists [in China]; constantly improve the capability of talent self-cultivation, and possess a large cohort of strategic scientific and technological talents, leading talents and innovation teams in core technology fields.

Our goals by 2030 are to basically form a talent system adapted to high-quality development; significantly enhance the [China’s independent] capability of cultivating innovation talents; significantly increase the attractiveness [of China] to the world’s best talents; possess a cohort of pacesetters in major scientific and technological fields; and possess a cohort of pioneers in the cross-cutting areas of emerging [scientific and technological] frontiers.

Our aim by 2035 is for [China] to form comparative advantages in numerous fields of talent competition and make it to the forefront of the world in terms of national strategic power in science and technology and high-level talent pool.”

The Politburo meeting characterized the National Talent Development Plan as “the concrete measure implementing the spirit of the Central Conference on Talent Work”, and part of the effort to drive “talent-led development”.

The importance assigned to talent work by the Chinese leadership is clear, as Xi stated at the Central Conference on Talent Work:

“We are closer to the grand goal of achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation than at any other time in history, and [thus] we also crave talent more than any other time in history.

To achieve our goal, a high level of scientific and technological self-reliance and self-empowerment is the key. The competition in comprehensive national power is, in the final analysis, the competition for talent. Talent is an important indicator for measuring a country’s comprehensive national power.”

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