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Chinese Economist Hu Angang considers Beijing's plans

Hu Angang, Director of Tsinghua University's Center for China Studies in Beijing, is a passionate and energetic academic who has been systemically researching the national conditions of China since as early as 1985. In his office are all kinds of population statistics, data on climate and environmental changes. Much like a supercomputer, his mind crunches numbers on the past and current state of China. Through interviews and writings, he trains his disciplined thoughts on the current state of China, and like the subject of his inquiries, he seems to be on the cusp of a period of highly compressed growth unparalleled in human history.

Last year, Hu stirred a great deal of excitement with his “green cat thesis.”

Referencing Deng Xiaoping's famous quote, “Whether it's a black cat or a white cat, as long as it catches mice, it's a good cat,” Hu advised: “China should bid farewell to its 'black cat' form of economic growth, and focus on becoming a 'green cat.'”

Economic development others have taken a decade to achieve, China has accomplished in two to three years, and the country still seeks to continue making miracles. But will those miracles all be so fortunate?

Hu is one of more than 10,000 academics behind China's next five-year plan. So what does he see as China's focus and challenges over the next five years? What follows are highlights from a CommonWealth Magazine interview:

In October the Chinese Communist Party will open the Fifth Plenary Session of the 17th Central Committee for the review and passage of Party Central recommendations regarding its 12th Five-Year Plan. The session will provide answers regarding the basic ideology, general direction and fundamental objectives for the nation.

Based on Central Committee recommendations, a specific outline for the next Five-Year Plan will be formulated between October and February of next year, which will be reviewed and passed at the next session of the National People's Congress, scheduled to convene in March 2011.

This reflects the thinking process of China's brains, shedding light on national strategic intentions, defining the focus of government efforts and guiding overall market activity. In short, it's actually the designing of a master blueprint for the coming five years that becomes the guiding principles for our actions.

Consequently, this plan paints a precise picture of where China is going, toward what ends, and with what objectives. The eleventh five-year plan was one of the best executed in the history of China's development, falling short on only two of its objectives. The first was to increase R&D [spending] to account for two percent of gross domestic product, which now seems somewhat unlikely, as it stands at just around 1.61 percent. The second was to reduce energy consumption per capita/unit of GDP value by 20 percent. The actual figure achieved was only around 16 percent.

'Green Cat' Thesis Takes Off

The most important direction of the 12th Five-Year Plan, what I define as China's first green development, is also a historical starting point for realization of the objective of green modernization by 2050. Once green development has become a fundamental principle and core benchmark, China will continue to move in this direction. What we call green development is not merely a concept. What the 11th Five-Year Plan termed the “population, resource and environmental index” has now been confirmed as the “green development index.”

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