A video put out by China’s official state media has been making the rounds this morning.
Not for the politics of it, as you might expect. Instead, for its form. It uses some well-worn American psychedelia to hawk the country’s new five-year development plan.
The catchy chorus: “If you wanna know what China’s gonna do, best pay attention to the 十三五.”
“In the era of Mao Zedong, China’s five-year plans were strictly implemented. The Communist party set specific production quotas — for instance, for steel and grain — that work units had to meet. This central direction and, often, misdirection squandered resources to disastrous effect, leaving much of the country impoverished. In the 1980s, as the government loosened its grip on the economy, it also became a bit more relaxed about the five-year plans. Rather than rigid agendas, they have become more like rough guides to how leaders want to steer the country.
“The five-year plans are no longer just economic in focus. Much attention is also given to environmental protection (there are targets for cutting carbon emissions and curbing energy use) and to social programmes such as health insurance. In the absence of democracy, the five-year plans are the closest thing to an election manifesto for the Communist Party, laying out its longer-term priorities. But since the party still has overwhelming power, the plans carry more weight than ordinary manifestos. All major actors — local officials, banks and big companies, both state-owned and private — change their strategies and their rhetoric to look like they are in line with the plans.”
One goal to keep a close eye on this time around is China’s GDP, which had grown so rapidly in previous years that it was easy to meet the goals set out by previous five-year plans. This time around, however, China’s economy has slowed, so setting a realistic goal could be difficult.
As for the video, The Guardian reports that it was made by “the mysterious Animation Studio, which has a history of producing glossy clips for China’s ruling Communist party aimed at foreign audiences.”
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