The need to watch long-term China trends

In an environment where the government sets prices, changes regulations, wipes out and launches entire sectors overnight, there is no reliable indication of what will work and what won’t. But one thing is sure: unyielding indicators set by the Communist Party serve as landmarks in a shifting terrain. China’s 2020 target to urbanise half its population was widely ridiculed – until it was realised by 2017. The same will happen to China’s ambitions to manufacture most of its electric vehicles within a decade under its ‘Made In China 2025’ policy, or to increase freight volumes transported by train as set out in the ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) strategy, which was formally adopted in 2015. There is no shortage of such indicators: China’s current (13th) Five-Year Plan includes targets for patent registration, R&D spending, Internet connectivity, automation and robotics, artificial intelligence, advanced materials, renewable energy and lots more.

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