In March, China Daily, the national Englishlanguage daily of China, introduced its China Daily Asia Weekly to The Nation newspaper and to Thailand. At the kickoff, the second Asia Leadership Roundtable was held at the Four Seasons Hotel, Bangkok.
“China’s 12th Five-Year Plan and its Partnership with Asean“was the topic of the roundtable as China’s National People’s Congress had concluded two days earlier. At the congress, the five year plan was repeatedly stressed. The plan runs from 2011 to 2015.
Panelists were Suthad Setboonsarng, Thailand trade representative; Yushu Feng, senior economist at the Asian Development Bank; Swarup Roy, founder and chairman of AseanAffairs magazine; Andrew Wong, president of the Thai-Hong Kong Trade Association; Pipit Aneaknithi, executive vice president of Kasikorn Bank and Yao Ming, marketing director at ZTE (Thailand). Alexander Wan, senior advisor to the China Daily Asia weekly and executive director of the China Daily Asia Leadership Roundtable moderated.d
Alexander Wan outlined the key elements of the five year plan:
• Reduce economic growth target to 7 percent from 7.5 percent, putting greater emphasis on sustainable growth.
• Cut import tariffs to reduce input-costs, boost consumer demand and reduce China’s reliance on exports that generated a trade surplus that stood at US$ 6.5 trillion in January 2011.
• Raise the threshold at which ordinary Chinese start paying income tax, to boost household spending.
• Increase spending on healthcare and fully implement nationwide social welfare insurance to reduce the need for “precautionary savings” and encourage more Chinese consumer spending.
• Seven industries across three sectors – Healthcare, Energy and Technology - have been identified as Strategic Emerging Industries. These will receive tax breaks and other incentives to speed their development.
• Increase minimum wages: provinces across China have announced a string of double-digit wage increases this year as part of the government desire to increase incomes among the rural regions and migrant workers in the cities.
• Introduce targets for energy efficiency and consumption that will see China finding 20 percent of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2015. The contribution of coal and oil to fall from its current 90 percent to 80 percent.
• Key sectors expected to benefit include: hydro and nuclear power, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, power grid technology, information technology, and educational services.
A key element in the plan is balancing consumption versus exports and ultimately reducing China’s voluminous US$6.5 trillion trade surplus. The plan was also greeted by western observers for its goal of equalizing incomes and its emphasis on renewable energy.
Thai trade representative Suthad Setboonsarng said it was important to note that China had chosen an income distribution model over a growth model and that model would also attempt to address the disparity between incomes in China’s coastal region and the rural inland. He noted also that income distribution in Thailand also needed some attention.
Mr. Suthad noted China’s growth needed energy and raw materials and observed China imported a substantial amount of energy from Africa and the Middle East, while China was the leading importer of Thai rubber. China’s trade patterns reminded him of the old “Silk Route.”
He noted there were opportunities in China for Asean construction firms, engineers and management systems and that he felt China would need Asean in other “future challenges” as well as for financial stability as a more integrated Asian financial system emerges, for food security, energy from biomass and disaster management expertise. Alexander Wan noted that China was already the top importer of Thai products and that China had made substantial investments in the Greater Mekong Subregion.
Yushu Feng, senior economist at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), emphasized the importance of regional cooperation in addressing issues of mutual concern between China and Asean.
Feng especially noted the cooperation in transport with the ADB backing bridges, the East-West corridor linking Thailand, Laos and Vietnam and now Thai trucks can travel directly to China without reloading at the border......................
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