BEIJING - China set a modest growth target for 2021, unveiled changes to Hong Kong's electoral system that strengthen Beijing's grip on the city and laid out medium-term policy goals set in its latest five-year plan during the annual session of its National People's Congress (NPC). Here are key takeaways from the week-long NPC, which concluded on Thursday with Premier Li Keqiang's annual press conference. - China set a growth target of above 6% for 2021, a modest number compared to market expectations that the world's second-largest economy could expand by 8% or more as it recovers from the COVID-19 shock in 2020. - The NPC approved a decision to overhaul Hong Kong's electoral system by altering the size and composition of the city's legislature and the panel that selects its chief executive, measures expected to reduce the participation of the pro-democracy opposition. The vote in favour was 2,895 to 0, with one abstention. - China's five-year plan for 2021-2025 laid out steps to transform the economy to increase its reliance on domestic consumption and home-grown technology to climb the value chain, amid strategic rivalry with the United States. - Chinese President Xi Jinping does not chair the proceedings, but much personal credit was given to him in speeches for his leadership in fighting COVID-19 and eradicating rural poverty. - The five-year plan increases R&D spending by more than 7% every year and pledges to boost spending this year on basic research by 10.6%, amid efforts to advance its tech sector and overcome restrictions on tech exports from the United States. - China also laid out plans to reduce carbon intensity by 18% and energy intensity by 13.5%, as it aims to have emissions peak before 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2060. It did not set a cap on overall energy consumption, as it has in the past. - China set a 2021 budget deficit target of around 3.2% of GDP, less than a goal of above 3.6% last year. - The plan called for the world's third-largest nuclear power producer to have 70 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity by 2025, after failing to meet its 2020 target of 58GW. - The plan did not set an explicit numerical economic growth target, a move officials said increases policy flexibility. - Beijing said it would deter efforts seeking independence for Taiwan, the democratic island that it considers a wayward province. China says it is committed to peaceful "reunification" but has increased military activity near the island due to what it calls "collusion" between Taipei and Washington. - China's defence spending will rise 6.8% this year to 1.35 trillion yuan ($207.20 billion), accelerating modestly from a 6.6% increase in 2020. - During the meetings, Xi said China faced a "relatively uncertain and unstable" security situation, and said the army must be ready at all times for difficult situations. ($1 = 6.5154 Chinese yuan renminbi) REUTERS
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