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An introduction to China’s Five-Year Plans

Edward Zheng

By Edward Zheng

Research Manager, Canada Wood China

February 10, 2016

China's cartoon explaining its five-year plan is catchier than most pop songs

Chinese news agency Xinhua has decided to advertise it as light-heartedly as possible, publishing a cheery three-minute cartoon featuring American-accented singers, jingling guitars, and the chorus: “If you wanna know what China’s gonna do, best pay attention to the shí sān wǔ.”

China’s five-year plan (FYP) is the country’s decision of social, economic and political aspects. Its full name is “The Five-Year Plan on National Economic and Social Development of People’s Republic of China”. The FYP is a long-term plan which plays an important role in the National Economic plan of China. The plan maps out the major national level projects, distributions of productivity, proportion of national economy; it also sets goals and directions for national economic development in the long run.

China began to work on its first five-year plan in 1953. The name of 11th five-year program was changed to “guideline” instead of “plan” in order to better reflect China’s socialist market economy. Nowadays, the Five-Year Plan and Five-Year Guideline share the same meaning. China has released 12 five-year plans so far and 13th FYP will be reviewed and discussed before the full plan comes out in March, 2016 [1].


The concept of a “five-year plan” originated in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. By the midterm of 1950s the socialist countries in Eastern Europe had accomplished their first five-year plans one-by-one [2]. For a long time, the FYP was the main vehicle for developing the national economy of socialist countries. China has drafted its first five-year plans since 1953 and finished its 12th five-year plans by the end of 2015. Development of the 13th FiYP began in April 2013 and a finalized version of the plan is expected to be approved at the National People’s Congress meetings in March 2016.


A midterm evaluation of the previous FYP is mandatory when the next FYP starts to be made. The evaluation is democratic which includes inquires, field work surveys and seminars. A preliminary study is conducted after the evaluation. It encompasses hundreds of topics by thousands of experts and researchers, which will directly serve the development of the FYP. The drafting of the FYP proposal begins once the basic direction is confirmed. Then the premier of State Council releases “The recommendation of formulating the “XXth” Five-Year Plan on National Economic and Social Development” on behalf of Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the CPC during the Fifth Plenum [2]. The “Recommendation” will be reviewed, approved and issued publicly as the first draft of FYP. The final version will be approved after consulting with experts, relevant party members and civilians from various backgrounds. The official FYP is still a living document which will be constantly reviewed over the next five years.



James McGregor (November 13th, 2015). The 13th Five-Year Plan: Xi Jinping Reiterates his Vision for China. Retrieved from


Baidu Baike (Baidu Encyclopedia). The Five-Year Plan. Retrieved from


Wikipedia. Five-year plans of China. Retrieved from