While Chinese economic policy contains a degree of flexibility, the overall direction of its development is planned out via a system of 'Five-Year Plans'. This method, which have been in use since the Communist Party came to power in 1949, determines the economic aims and objectives of the government in a particular half-decade period, and sets out how these will be achieved. The PRC is currently in its 11th Five-Year Plan (FYP), with the twelfth due to start in 2011.
The current FYP has seen Hu Jintao's leadership team continue to oversee China's transition to a modern world superpower in line with Hu's own approach of 'scientific development'. Deng Xiaoping's 'opening up' principle is still very much in favour in Beijing. Only a couple of weeks ago, Chinese Vice-Premier Xi Jinping was emphasising the need for further foreign investment in the PRC to facilitate increased economic growth. This will allow for more development for China's Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and other designated economic targets.
The next FYP will have an additional dynamic, in that it straddles a major leadership change that is due to occur in 2013. Thus, both current top officials and likely future leaders of the Communist Party will be seeking to have an input into the 12th FYP. At the moment, it does not seem that these interests are too far apart. Xi is tipped by many to be the probable successor to Hu Jintao, and the formers recent speeches and economic announcements demonstrate a strong intention to pick up where Hu and Wen Jiabao have left off. However, Xi's rise to the top is not guaranteed- a fact that is likely to generate at least some differences of opinion when politicians meet to discuss the course of the 12th FYP in the coming months.
As is typical with this kind of policy-making, planners are also required to receive recommendations from representatives of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Made up of officials from China's various other democratic parties, along with members of various business and ethnic groups, the CPPCC's Standing Committee (chaired by senior political adviser Jia Qinglin) is to due to convene in October to discuss China's economic path in the coming years. While the committee's suggestions will certainly not be ignored, it would be incorrect to think that the CPPCC is able to assert a decisive influence on matters of top-level policy. China's governmental system has evolved significantly from the days when the likes of Chairman Mao dictated policy, but it is still the case that the nucleus of leaders under Hu Jintao acts as the guiding hand on matters of government. Such is the nature of the Chinese 'one-party state' that the other officially sanctioned parties either accord with the CCP's own policy direction or exist more to serve the interests of the state than act as a genuine 'opposition'.
Therefore, the gathered members of the CPPCC (ably steered by Jia Qinglin) will come down in favour of the current leadership's economic policy forecasts for the future. The key element this will undoubtedly be a need for conformity. Yet, this also reflects the fact that Hu Jintao has presided over a China that has grown at a remarkable rate, and looks set to continue doing so for the foreseeable future. As long as the economic bubble does not burst, the content of future FYP's will be more of the same.