China vows to become self-reliant and bolster military after four-day government meeting

Chinese president Xi Jinping oversaw the meeting - Liu Bin/Xinhua via AP
Chinese president Xi Jinping oversaw the meeting - Liu Bin/Xinhua via AP

China’s leaders vow to become a “self-reliant” technology power and to continue defence capabilities as Communist Party leader Xi Jinping closed a four-day government meeting aimed at outlining policy plans for the next five years.

A communique released at the end of the meeting gave a scant outline, and full details aren’t expected until next spring when the country’s parliament meets for its annual session to rubber-stamp the plans.

While Beijing has prioritised boosting its advanced technology and manufacturing capabilities over recent years to be less dependent on foreign imports, that push is being renewed as tensions grow with the US.

Supply chains for Chinese tech firms have been disrupted after Washington slapped tariffs and restricted access to components.

The communique also stressed that China would continue to develop its military, and made clear the government’s  would promote peaceful unification with Taiwan.

Taiwan, an island of 23 million with a democractic government and its own currency, military, passport and foreign policy, has long been regarded by Beijing as a renegade province.

Balancing the peaceful language was the term to “prepare for war,” a phrase last used in relation to five-year policy planning around 1966 – when the Cultural Revolution began.

Such rhetoric fits into Beijing’s increasing swagger, running military drills near and around Taiwan in a show of force despite being busy with the coronavirus pandemic this year.

Mr Xi’s recent pledge for China to be carbon neutral by 2060 is largely expected to be written into policy plans. But so far, authorities have only said that China would push forward on green and low-carbon development, without giving further details.

While the economy has fared “better than expected” amid uncertainty triggered by Covid, officials haven’t indicated whether a growth target will be set.

One key part of the meeting that was missing, however, was any hint of who would potentially be Mr Xi’s successor. In 2018, he scrapped China’s two-term limit for state president, allowing him to rule indefinitely.

No such limits exist for other top posts, which Mr Xi also holds, such as Communist Party general secretary.