On March 5, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang delivered the 2023 Government Work Report to the National People's Congress.
The Government Work Report is an annual report delivered by the Premier on behalf of the State Council to China's national legislature. It outlines the central government's goals, plans, and priorities for the upcoming year, and reviews the government's work from the previous year. The report serves as a public policy statement and guideline for government agencies and local governments.
The brief below is followed by the Chinese and English versions of the 2023 Government Work Report and two other documents delivered by the government to the legislature: the report on national economic and social development, and the report on central and local budgets.
The tables below compare the 2023 and the 2022 Government Work Reports across four areas that together form the forward-looking parts of the document:
- Policy Requirements and Orientation
- Major Priorities
- Main Development Targets
- Other Policy Statements
Policy Requirements and Orientation
Policy requirements and orientation refer to the principles and imperatives guiding policymaking and implementation. Substantive changes are highlighted in bold.
|2023 Government Work Report||2022 Government Work Report|
|- follow the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era||- follow the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era|
|- implement the guiding principles from the Party’s 20th National Congress;||- implement the guiding principles of the Party’s 19th National Congress and all plenary sessions of the 19th Party Central Committee|
|- make solid progress in advancing Chinese modernization|
|- act on the guidelines of the Central Economic Work Conference|
|- act on the general principle of pursuing progress while ensuring stability||- act on the general principle of pursuing progress while ensuring stability|
|- fully and faithfully apply the new development philosophy on all fronts and move faster to create a new pattern of development||- apply the new development philosophy in full, in the right way, and in all fields of endeavor and move faster to create a new pattern of development|
|- promote high-quality development||- promote high-quality development|
|- give full consideration to both domestic and international imperatives|
|- respond to Covid-19 and pursue economic and social development in a more coordinated way||- respond to Covid-19 and pursue economic and social development in a well-coordinated way|
|- better ensure development and security||- ensure both development and security|
|- deepen reform and opening up in all respects||- deepen reform and opening up in all respects|
|- boost market confidence|
|- pursue the strategy of expanding domestic demand and deepen supply-side structural reform||- advance supply-side structural reform as the main task|
|- give priority to ensuring stable growth, employment, and prices||- continue to ensure stability on six key fronts and maintain security in six key areas|
|- effectively prevent and defuse major risks|
|- promote a full economic recovery||- keep major economic indicators within an appropriate range|
|- effectively pursue higher-quality growth and appropriately increase economic output||- strive to maintain stable macroeconomic performance|
|- keep working to improve people’s lives||- keep working to improve people’s lives|
|- maintain overall social stability||- maintain overall social stability|
|- carry forward the great founding spirit of the Party|
|- pursue innovation-driven development|
Most of the changes highlighted above relate to boosting demand, promoting economic recovery and preventing risks.
In addition, the 2023 Report introduced three new policy requirements that did not appear in the 2022 Report, while two that appeared last year were not included this year.
The first new requirement is to "make solid progress in advancing Chinese modernization" (扎实推进中国式现代化). Here, "Chinese modernization" is best understood as "Chinese-style modernization" or the "Chinese path to modernization." Introduced into the Party lexicon in 2021, "Chinese-style modernization" (中国式现代化) became a central concept in the 20th Party Congress Report. Chinese thinkers and politicians have been theorising and arguing about modernisation for a long time. The introduction of “Chinese-style modernization” is part of the latest efforts by the Party-state to describe its vision of modernity and legitimacy for its development program.
The second new requirement is to "give full consideration to both domestic and international imperatives" (统筹国内国际两个大局). This formulation underlines the interconnectedness of China's internal and external challenges, especially its worsening strategic environment. The formulation has gained traction since appearing in the 19th Party Congress Report of October 2017. Although it was curiously absent from the 20th Party Congress Report, this language has been used prevalently in recent Party and State documents.
The third new requirement is to "act on the guidelines of the Central Economic Work Conference" (按照中央经济工作会议部署). The Central Economic Work Conference is China's most authoritative economic policy conference. Held every December, it reviews economic policy for that year, examines the economic situation, and plans economic policy for the following year.
It is puzzling why this new language was added, given that there have been no apparent changes in the mechanism of economic policymaking over the last year, particularly concerning the role played by the Central Economic Work Conference. Why was this language not included in past Government Work Reports?
One possibility is that this language gives proper importance to the guidelines on economic policy finalised at the Central Economic Work Conference every year, making explicit what past Government Work Reports took as implicit.
Two policy requirements were dropped off in 2023. The first one is "carry forward the great founding spirit of the Party" (弘扬伟大建党精神). The reason is straightforward: the political moment passed with the conclusion of the 20th Party Congress in October 2022.
The second policy requirement that has been dropped is "pursue innovation-driven development" (坚持创新驱动发展). This is likely because recent efforts have satisfied this requirement, making it no longer urgent. The 2023 Report notes that over the past five years, the Chinese government has "fully implemented the innovation-driven development strategy," improving the innovation system, promoting self-reliance in science and technology, and doubling the country's spending on basic research.