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Now Beijing goes the funny way to reach out

Everybody knows that the government in Beijing knows how to sell a message. While democracy is still a long way off from braking its way into Chinese society, the need for the communist party to communicate its plans to an increasingly demanding population is higher than ever.

The old days when simple commands could just be handed down from on high without resistance or criticism are over. The average Chinese citizen has to feel that she can trust those in charge. It’s rather simple really: a system that almost completely lacks any kind of input legitimacy, such as democratic participation, has to instead rely entirely upon outputs to justify its continued existence.

One of the most important features, and arguably one that gives China an edge over western democracies, is its ability to plan ahead. No elections and limited political debate mean, that the leadership can focus on the targets they have set for themselves in plans that get renewed every five years. Success thereby becomes measurable, it is no longer arbitrarily defined by those in power.
It is precisely this practice of setting goals and fulfilling most of them that has continued to legitimate China’s communist Party’s claim to power in the past decades.

This logic explains why the Chinese Government has now released a video about China’s new five year plan, that mentions hardly any details regarding its actual contents. Instead the animated film is designed to help Chinese and foreigners alike, to understand the process behind the plan’s construction. The  technocratic process of the authoritarian regime is shown as a highly complex and infinitely detailed endeavor. The suggestion here is of course that these difficult issues of state-craft and economic planning are best left to professionals. Why, after all, should a highly trained surgeon listen to some random citizen’s advice on how to operate on a patient?

So far this technique has worked quite well for China’s leadership. But it is well understood that the system only works as long as Beijing continues to deliver on it plans. If it doesn’t, cute little videos will not be enough to tame the aspirations of a billion Chinese. It really should be called the five year promise. Mr Xi better not break it!

So will he be able to? Here is what we know about the the new plan:


There are plenty reasons to be skeptical, but also keep in mind: up until now China has always managed to meet enough of its goals to ensure that the delicate balance within, remains intact. The Yuan’s inclusion into the IMF’s currency basket, which came after China had made considerable progress in bringing it closer towards its fair market value, shows that real progress is indeed already being made.