BEIJING, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- In 2020, China did not set a specific economic growth target for the year -- an exception for the world's second-largest economy, which had announced the figure annually in the government work report for years.
The reason for the rare absence, against the backdrop of great uncertainty resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the world economic and trade environment, was elaborated by Chinese President Xi Jinping during that year's "two sessions," a major gathering of the country's national lawmakers and political advisors.
"Had we imposed a target, the focus would have been strong stimulus and a simple grasp on growth rate. That is not in line with our social and economic development purposes," Xi told his fellow lawmakers from Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, north China, during deliberation.
"We've emphasized that GDP growth rate could not serve as the sole yardstick of success for development," Xi noted.
For quite some time, GDP was the overarching performance gauge in the eyes of certain local government officials. Sometimes this has led to a compromise in long-term benefits such as the environment and welfare for the short-term benefits of growth figures, an unsustainable development pattern that Xi has opposed.
"We still need GDP, but economic growth is not equivalent to development," Xi said in 2004, when he was the Party chief of Zhejiang Province, an economic powerhouse in east China.
In 2005, Xi praised the efforts of a local village in Zhejiang to shut down polluting mines and cement plants, though the closure caused a drastic fall in the village's collective income.
"Do not pursue economic growth at the price of the environment, because such growth is not development," Xi told the villagers on one visit. Over a decade later, the village has become a popular tourist destination, winning the accolade National Ecological Cultural Village.
What, if not mere GDP growth, is the right yardstick for development now? In the quest for the right answer, high-quality development has emerged as a viable guiding philosophy in the new development stage.
"High-quality development is the kind of development that can meet the people's ever-growing desire for better lives," he told the Central Economic Work Conference in 2017, highlighting the new development concept of innovation, coordination, green development, openness, and sharing.
China has successfully eradicated absolute poverty and completed building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. This year, China has further made marked progress in science and technology, industrial resilience, reform and opening-up, people's wellbeing and ecological conservation.
Also in 2021, Chinese lawmakers approved a five-year development plan without precise GDP growth targets for the 2021-2025 period. Rather, the plan had clear goals on indicators such as unemployment rate, energy intensity, and basic research spending.
Xi once pointed out that the most important political achievement for officials is bringing benefits to the people. "The ultimate purpose of social and economic developments is to fulfill the desire of the people for a better life," he said.