China‘s Communist-controlled legislature approved an economic roadmap for the next five years and a charity law among a series of measures Wednesday at the close of its annual meeting.
As the balloting started in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing a voice boomed over a loudspeaker asking delegates to press the voting device. Thousands of arms in suit jackets reached across the tables simultaneously.
Votes at the National People’s Congress are normally overwhelming approvals of measures decided long in advance by the ruling Communist party.
There were 2,778 ‘yes’ votes for the 13th Five Year Plan, or 97.27 percent of the total, the official Xinhua news agency reported, and 2,636 in favour of the charity law — 92.49 percent.
The five-year plan, a blueprint for economic and social development, pledged to grow the world’s second-largest economy by an average of at least 6.5 percent a year over the 2016-2020 period.
Such plans are a legacy of China‘s command economy era but still guide policymakers at all levels of government.
Gross domestic product (GDP) is set to go from 67.7 trillion yuan ($10.4 trillion) last year to more than 92.7 trillion yuan in 2020, according to the plan.
The plan also seeks to significantly reduce poverty by 2020. Officials have declared charitable organisations essential to achieving the goal and hope to encourage more giving with the charity law.
As the country’s economy has grown to the world’s second-largest, charitable giving has lagged, with the country ranking 144th out of 145 countries for giving, according to a study last year by the Charities Aid Foundation.
Chinese citizens donated just $16 billion in 2014, according to the most recent data from the China Charity Information Centre — less than 0.2 percent of annual GDP.
China‘s official news agency Xinhua said the new law was intended to “recruit help from good Samaritans in realising the 2020 poverty alleviation target”.