Mapping the Drafting Process of China’s 13th Five-Year Plan


By Koh Fui Pin, Rebecca Nadin and Jessie Liu.

China’s Thirteenth Five-Year Plan (13th FYP) will set the scene for the country’s social and economic development and reform until 2020. Symbolically, this Plan is an important one: the year 2020 marks the centennial anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, and the target year set for realising China’s goal of becoming an “all-around well-off society” (quanmian xiaokang shihui). The concept of ‘well-off’(xiaokang) was first introduced in 1979 by Deng Xiaoping as a Chinese concept for country modernisation. The ‘all-around well-off society” is the next development goal for China after achieving its first goal – ‘well-off society” (xiaokang shihui).

The Five-Year Plan represents the end product of several years’ drafting, involving an eye-watering array of stakeholders – from experts at Universities and research centres, to government officials and WeChat users. This article aims to map the complex drafting process of the 13th FYP outlining the various steps, sub-steps and timelines, as well as the key actors. This will be of particular use to those interested in Chinese policy making processes, especially those seeking to intersect with policy implementation in the period 2016-2020.

The research for this article has been gathered as part of the Adapting to Climate Change in China (ACCC) project. The project is delivered in partnership with the China’s National Development and Reform Commission and is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The ACCC project works with subnational policymakers and technical experts involved in the drafting, development and delivery of climate risk and resilience planning into provincial 5 Year Plans.

The 13th FYP Drafting Process

The 13th FYP covers the period 2016-2020 and is drafted under leadership of President Xi Jinping. The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) is responsible for producing the draft plan and adoption of the plan is rubberstamped by the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China (NPC). The drafting process is a time-consuming one, taking approximately three years to complete, and consists of 10 steps. The overall timeline, stages and steps are scheduled around the meetings of the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China (NPC) as the documents produced at the various steps require endorsement from the NPC.

Following the endorsement of the final draft of 13th FYP by the NPC, provincial, local and district governments, as well as ministries, government agencies and industry regulators are then expected to draft their five-year and thematic plans, within the guiding principles detailed in the national five-year plan, and implement the plan over the subsequent years. It is anticipated that the national-thematic sub-plans will be released in the first year of the 13th FYP, and the follow-on implementation documents will be released in the following years.

Step 1: Mid-term Review of the Five-year Plan’s Implementation

The 13th FYP plan process begins with a mid-term review of the implementation of 12th FYP. The mid-term review of the implementation of the 12th FYP was conducted by NRDC, together with several third parties including Tsinghua University and China Research Foundation for Economic Reform (Zhonguo jingji gaige yanjiu jijinhui) from March to December 2013. This independent third-party evaluation is a new process which started from the 11th FYP (Melton, 2015; Hu, 2010).

The aim of the mid-term review is to evaluate the 12th FYP against targets, and identify any problems and challenges that are delaying implementation. The mid-term review of the 12th FYP followed a similar process to the 11th FYP’s mid-term review which was conducted at three levels, namely (i) ministry, (ii) provincial and (iii) independent third-party for their respective thematic sub-plans (专项规划zhuanxiang guihua) and provincial 12th FYP. The 12th FYP’s mid-term review report was submitted to the State Council and NPC for approval and released on 25 December 2013. The 12th FYP mid-term review report then serves as the basic framework to identify key issues for research at the initial drafting stage of the 13th FYP.

Step 2: Identification and Selection of Research Areas

Based on the outcomes of the mid-term review, the NDRC initiated the pre-preparation of the 13th FYP. The NDRC then selects specific research areas and put out a research tender on 23 April 2014 (NDRC, 2014a). A total of 27 institutes were selected and their research topics were announced by the NDRC (NDRC, 2014b). At the same time, the NDRC also conducted its research, investigation and compilation of relevant information. This is the first phase of intensive investigation, information compilation and brainstorming sessions in the 13th FYP drafting process.

Step 3: Framing of “Five-year Plan’s General Concepts” [规划基本思路 (guihua jiben silu)]

The “General Concepts” refers to ideas about the direction of China’s economic and social development for the next five years. These ‘General Concepts’ are based on the results of research, investigation and information compiled from provinces and various research organisations. This was prepared by the NDRC during the period from the end of 2014 to March 2015 (NPC Congress). The ‘General Concepts’ are then prepared and submitted to the relevant organs of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and State Council.

The subsequent Steps 4 and 5 are the drafting of the 13th FYP at the CPC level. This consultation output is eventually integrated into the central government drafting process.

Step 4: Drafting of the “Consultative Draft” 《建议》(jianyi) by the Communist Party of China

Step 5: Deliberation of the “Consultative Draft” at the Central Committee of the Communist Party

These two steps represent the involvement of relevant CPC organs in the drafting process of 13th FYP. The drafting of the “Consultative Draft” was leaded by Politburo of the CPC and it was conducted fromMarch to October 2015. It involved a series of stakeholder consultations targeting key members of the Party. The “Consultative Draft” is a proposal from the Party for the 13th FYP. The document known as ‘’CPC Central Committee’s Proposal on Formulating the Thirteenth Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) on National Economic and Social Development’ 《中共中央关于制定国民经济和社会发展第十三个五年规划的建议》was adopted on 29 October 2015 at the fifth plenum of the Communist Party Central Committee (CPC, 2015). Followed by the endorsement, the document is make publicly available.

Step 6: Drafting the Preliminary Draft of the 13th FYP《“十三五”规划纲要(草案)》 (shisanwu guihua gangyao caoan)

At this step the draft of the 13th FYP is prepared by the NDRC. In practice, this step was initiated at the same time as the CPC started to prepare its ‘Consultative Draft’. The first drafting group meeting was called by the NDRC on 5 May 2015. During this period of time, more stakeholder consultations were conducted to obtain additional inputs to the 13th FYP involving NDRC and all relevant governmental departments at the national and sub-national levels. The NDRC also hosted specific symposium sessions to obtain opinions from relevant agencies and experts. Once the Consultative Draft is adopted by CPC, it then becomes a major component of the preliminary draft of the 13th FYP. This process was carried out until February 2016. It is completed before the ‘Two Meetings’: plenary sessions of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China (NPC) which are scheduled from 3rd – 13th March 2016.

Step 7: Assessment and Verification by the National Experts Committee

A national expert committee, comprising experts and entrepreneurs chosen by the Chinese State Council, assesses and verifies the preliminary draft of the 13th FYP.

 Step 8: Public Consultation – Collection Opinions from All Levels of Society

The public are also encouraged to provide their views and suggestions through new media communication channels such as email and WeChat.

Step 9: Submission and Endorsement of 13th FYP during the “Two Meetings”

The draft 13th FYP is then adopted by NPC during the Two Meetings in March 2016. It is submitted by the NDRC firstly to the State Council, Standing Committee of the Political Bureau and National People’s Congress Financial and Economic Affairs Committee for a series of reviews. The State Council then submits the draft 13th FYP to the NPC for review and Standing Committee of the Political Bureau for endorsement.

Step 10: Releasing and Implementing of 13th FYP

The document will be officially adopted by the NPC during the Two Meetings and announced publicly by Xinhua News Agency, China’s official press agency.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for those involved in policy planning, the NDRC’s announcement of the Five-Year Plan is only the start of the process. Provincial governments are then expected to draft their own five-year plans, which can take somewhere between one to two years and are based on a similar process to the above. There is also a lag in the implementation documents, fiscal support measures and evaluation procedures needed to support the Plan’s implementation. In general, implementation of policies only begins around midway through the Plan’s five-year term.

The Authors

Dr Rebecca Nadin , Director of the Adapting to Climate Change in China Project (ACCC Phase I & II). She works with Chinese government decision makers on climate risk management, policy and planning into provincial 5 Year Plans

Jessie Liu, Deputy Director , the Adapting to Climate Change in China Project (ACCC Phase II).

Koh Fui Pin, Research Associate, Adapting to Climate Change in China Project (ACCC Phase II).


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