Under pressure to reassure the world about its commitment to economic reform, the top leadership of China's Communist Party meets this week to discuss the next 5-year plan. CNN went out on the streets of Beijing to ask ordinary Chinese what their hopes for the future are and how things have changed over the past five years. Charlie Miller/CNN
The 5-year plan is what makes China tick -- it's a regular top-down directive on how a nation will power ahead socially and economically. It's believed that as long as China keeps getting richer, it will avoid widespread social unrest. Charlie Miller/CNN
The first 5-year plan ran from 1953-1957, a few years after the Communist Party came into power. Based on a Soviet model, it set goals on everything from steel production to livestock numbers. Since the 1980s, China has carried out major market reforms but the 5-year plan is still a key part of China's centrally-planned society.
Once every five years, a small committee meets in October or November to work out the plan for China's economic and social strategy over the next five years. And then in March, the details of these policies are presented for approval to China's rubber-stamp parliament, the National People's Congress. They can be implemented fairly swiftly after that. The rapid turnaround is a powerful and efficient way to keep things moving in a country of 1.3 billion people.
Economists expect the government to lower its official economic growth target to an average of 6.5% a year through 2020. An economic slowdown and a stock market crash has made people jittery at home and overseas. Charlie Miller/CNN
Of course, the plan is subject to criticism -- from investors who vote with their dollars and Chinese netizens who manage to voice their dissent through social media. But the Party believes strong state control is necessary to avoid the market failures seen in the West as well as the political paralysis that's played out in the U.S. Congress. Shen Lu/CNN
Officials will discuss and approve social and economic plans for the next five years. They might include further relaxing China's one-child policy and making it easier for migrant workers from rural areas to share the same benefits as urban residents. Shen Lu/CNN