A group of attendants pose for pictures in front of the Great Hall of the People during the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing on March 5, 2024. LEHTIKUVA / AFP

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Recent comments by political figures and leaders in the US, and EU have focused on military expenditure, fear-mongering and preparing their nations for a hard time in expense for security. Russia and often China have been mentioned as threats to the Western society. 

However, China’s military expenditure as a percentage of its GDP has been consistently at or below 2 percent since 2000, reflecting a relatively stable defence spending strategy in relation to its economic size. This proportion showcases China's approach to balancing its defence needs with its broader economic goals.

In a recent address, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged the armed forces to enhance their strategic capabilities, focusing on innovation and reform instead of volume and spending. The comments were made at a plenary session of the NPC with the People's Liberation Army and People's Armed Police Force. Xi emphasised the need for integrating new productive forces with combat capabilities, enhancing maritime, aerospace, and cyberspace defence systems, and fostering self-reliance within an open and integrated innovation ecosystem.

The National People's Congress (NPC) is the highest organ of state power in China, with the power to legislate, oversee the operations of the government, elect major officials, and make decisions on significant state issues. The NPC Standing Committee, a permanent body, conducts the NPC's functions when it is not in session, enacting and amending laws except those reserved for the NPC, and interpreting the Constitution and laws.

In 2023, China's economic landscape showcased resilience with a GDP growth of 5.2%, situating it among the fastest-growing major economies globally. This period also saw the creation of 12.44 million urban jobs, maintaining an average surveyed urban unemployment rate at 5.2%. The consumer price index observed a modest rise of 0.2%, indicating stable inflation levels. Looking ahead to 2024, China targets an economic growth of around 5%, aiming to further bolster job creation and sustain economic equilibrium through proactive fiscal and prudent monetary policies.

To explore China's economic performance and its targets for 2024, it's crucial to note that China achieved a 5.2% GDP growth in 2023, positioning it among the fastest-growing major economies. 

For comparison, in the same year, the GDP growth rates for the EU was approximately 0.8%, the US around 1.5%, and Russia’s, despite a tsunami of sanctions had GDP growth rate of 3.60% (increased from -1.20% in 2022). Finland has not had growth for the last 4 years and this year does not look any better.

China’s growth was accompanied by the creation of 12.44 million urban jobs, maintaining an urban unemployment rate at 5.2%, and a minimal rise in the consumer price index by 0.2%, reflecting controlled inflation. For 2024, China targets around 5% economic growth, planning to generate over 12 million jobs in urban areas and aiming to keep the unemployment rate at approximately 5.5%. The country's proactive fiscal policy and prudent monetary policy, with a set deficit-to-GDP ratio of 3%, underscore its strategic approach to sustain growth and stability amidst global economic uncertainties.

The aerial photo shows high speed trains lining up at a railway station after snowfall in Zhengzhou, in central China's Henan province on February 22, 2024. (Photo by AFP) / China Out

China's strategic focus on modernising its industrial system underscores its ambition to lead in the new industrial revolution. Initiatives aimed at developing quality productive forces, such as advancements in hydrogen power, new materials, biomanufacturing, commercial spaceflight, quantum technology, and life sciences, signal a significant shift towards high-tech and sustainable industries. This transition not only aims to elevate China's domestic economic structure but also sets a new benchmark for global technological advancement. By fostering innovation and prioritising green and digital economies, China's approach could catalyse a global shift towards more sustainable and technologically advanced economic models.

China is also changing laws and adopting new ones fast in order to secure national treatment for foreign-funded enterprise. This move, aimed at attracting more foreign investment, includes abolishing market access restrictions in manufacturing and easing barriers in service sectors like telecommunications and healthcare, aiming to enhance China's attractiveness to international investors.

By aligning its economic and trade rules with international standards, China positions itself as a key player in the global market, encouraging a more diversified and robust flow of global investments. This strategic orientation is expected to influence global investment patterns, as investors may recalibrate their portfolios to include more Chinese assets, attracted by the promise of a level playing field and the vast potential of China's market.

The broader implications for international trade and global economic dynamics are profound. China's openness to foreign investment and its efforts to ensure fair treatment for all enterprises could lead to increased economic interdependence, potentially stabilising global trade relations.

As China becomes more integral to the global economy, its policies and development trajectory will likely impact foreign investment patterns, potentially leading to shifts in global economic power structures and alliances.

China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was kickstarted 10 years ago. Over 150 countries and 30 organisations participated in its lates forum last October. Announcements included significant infrastructure and economic projects, aiming to boost global connectivity and sustainable development.

In the face of the EU and other Western countries experiencing a decline in both economic and cultural spheres, coupled with a resurgence of protectionism and global division amidst challenges related to an aging population and a shrinking workforce, the global south is building stronger ties and supporting mutual growth. These developments signal a significant shift in the tectonic plates of economic and political power. Whether the West will return to a stance of balanced collaboration or persist in its isolation will be pivotal in determining the future of the bloc and its citizens.