The National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s unicameral parliament, convened last Saturday to kick off its annual meeting which runs until March 16th. It’s a lot of pomp and circumstance, with the NPC widely dismissed as a “rubber stamp” parliamentary for the Chinese Communist Party.
Nevertheless, the meetings offer valuable insight into the Chinese government’s priorities and ambitions for the year, many of which shape the country’s business environment. This year’s gathering is especially important as delegates will draft and complete China’s 13th Five Year Plan.
Unsurprisingly, Premier Li Keqiang’s annual work report underlined the government’s continued commitment to “innovation-driven development”, in the form of investment, tech and innovation hubs, and “platforms…for crowd innovation, crowd support, crowdsourcing, and crowdfunding.” Other buzzwords, like the sharing economy, internet-of-things, and big data, were also scattered throughout the report.
For entrepreneurs, this year’s NPC gathering can hint at other opportunities as well, besides the general support for entrepreneurship expected from the government. Using the Premier’s annual report, we’ve identified three areas that entrepreneurs can take advantage of:
1. Clean and Green Tech
The Chinese government’s commitment to environmental conservation and reducing pollution and emissions was reemphasized in Mr. Li’s annual work report. For example, the government plans to reduce “water consumption, energy consumption, and carbon dioxide emissions by 23%, 15%, and 18% respectively” per unit of GDP over the next five years.
The report also sets reduction targets for air pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, and specifically mentioned secondhand cars and electric vehicles as markets the government is interested in supporting.
Already, China has made a number of serious commitments to environmental conservation. In 2014, China spent $4.3 billion USD on its smart grid market. During the Paris climate talks in 2015, the Chinese government committed to producing 150 to 200 gigawatts of solar energy by 2020.
Conserving energy and the environment will be a growing imperative for China as the environmental consequences of rapid urbanization and development take their toll. For entrepreneurs in the green tech sector, the next five years could be see even more support from the government, in terms of policies, funding, pilot projects, and more.
2. Digitization and Urbanization of China’s Rural Population
According to Mr. Li’s report, the Chinese government wants to connect more of the country’s rural population to the internet.
“Fiber-optic networks will be developed in a number of cities and 50,000 administrative villages will be linked up to fiber-optic networks, thus enabling more urban and rural residents to enjoy a more digital way of life,” stated Mr. Li in his report.
In addition, the government aims for 60% of China’s population to be urban residents by 2020, or about 780 million people. The government also plans to build and upgrade 200,000 kilometers of rural roads around China.
More rural residents online could hold a number of opportunities for entrepreneurs. Startups such as Emubao, which connects users to sheep farmers, are already targeting China’s rural population. As more rural residents connect to the internet and rural infrastructure improves, we expect more opportunities for startups in the O2O and e-commerce industry.
3. The Tourism Industry
This year, Chinese government will make a strong push to grow China’s tourism industry.
“We will ensure people are able to take their paid vacations, strengthen the development of tourist and transport facilities, scenic spots, and tourist sites, and recreational vehicles parks, and see that the tourist market operates in line with regulations,” stated Mr. Li. “With these efforts, we will usher in a new era of mass tourism.”
Currently, many of China’s travel agencies are or belong to tech giants, such as Alitrip and Qunar. However, opportunities for startups in tourism services, hospitality, and social media – such as sharing moments from trips – are plenty and we expect them to increase.
The push for tourism comes in the context of China’s slowing economy. The Chinese government will strive to maintain a GDP growth rate of 6.5% for the next five years, according to the Premier’s report. To move China’s economy to a more domestic-consumption-based model, the government is not only supporting tourism, but online shopping, personalized fashion, health services, cultural and sports services, and elderly care, according to Mr. Li’s report.
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