What does China’s 14th Five-year Plan mean for nickel?

In 2021, China instigated its 14th Five-year Plan. Under the Plan, the country aims to move from an era of rapid economic growth towards improving its economic structure and the standard of living of the Chinese people.

The Master Plan

The 14th Five-year Plan (the Plan) will marshal and integrate the range of national strategies, strategic priorities, and key projects that guide both governmental authorities and market players to collectively realize the objectives of social and economic development. The Plan consists of 19 titles and 65 chapters, dealing with every aspect of citizen’s lives. Though nickel is not explicitly mentioned, many aspects of the Plan will have impacts on nickel and its applications.  

The strategic relevance

The Plan reiterates multiple approaches such as the Manufacturing Powerhouse Strategy, New Urbanization Strategy, Rural Revitalization Strategy, Coordinated Regional Development Strategy, World-leading Transportation Strategy, Domestic Demand Expansion Strategy, Dual Circulations Strategy, Beautiful China Strategy, Healthy China Strategy and National Security Strategy.

Together, these initiatives aim to switch China’s development pattern from “high velocity” to “high quality”, in an innovative, coordinated, green, open, and inclusive way. The “high quality” development is pinned to four strategic priorities of manufacturing excellency, domestic demand creation, environmental quality improvement, and human health protection, where nickel and nickel-containing materials have been proven to contribute with their intrinsic properties.

Four strategic priorities where nickel and nickel-containing materials have been proven to contribute:

Manufacturing excellency

Domestic demand creation

Environmental quality improvement

Human health protection

The 14th Five-year Plan also reveals that modern supply chain management is the key to achieving manufacturing excellence. This focuses on the development of the Strategic and Emerging Industries (S&EIs) including new energy, new materials, high-end equipment, new energy vehicles (NEV), aerospace and aviation, as well as offshore engineering equipment. The ultimate solution for growth is domestic demand created through urbanization, infrastructure, as well as large projects for transportation, clean energy, and hydro engineering.

Binding objectives have been set for energy consumption and CO2 emissions to push the decarbonization of key sectors such as power, industry, transportation, and building. The Plan also requires enhanced legislation and enforcement for risk assessment and management that protects human health.

The Quantifiable Opportunities

The Plan sets quantitative objectives for key growth indicators, steering more investment to the S&EIs, new urbanization, and large projects. This will create many opportunities for nickel in the forms of stainless steel, metal alloys and industrial chemicals.

For instance, the S&EIs have the shared the mission to contribute 17% of total GDP. Among them, NEV is the vanguard to achieve 20% penetration rate. This provides opportunities for nickel thanks to the high-nickel cathode technology employed. Non-fossil energy is expected to account for 20% of China’s energy mix.

Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash
Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

Under the Plan, China’s urbanization rate will exceed 65%, with better urban planning and living conditions to be developed. More subways, metros, and inter-city rail networks will be built to connect the mega cities and their satellite cities. And this massive urban population will require numerous products to satisfy safe food, sanitary drink water, and quality healthcare needs.

Many large projects will be launched. 7 000 km of metro, 25 000 km of express way and 30 civil airports will be added by 2025 with a total of 70 000 km of high-speed rail by 2035. The installed capacity of nuclear power generation will reach 70 GWh by 2025. There are also plans for irrigation and flood mitigation projects besides the massive South-North water transfer initiative.

The holistic framework for green development

In transition to green development, the Plan emphasizes the establishment and management of green, innovative, high value-added, safe, reliable, and sector-based supply chains.

The green supply chain management framework is the new regulatory tool adopted by Chinese authorities to achieve green, low carbon and circular development. The framework centers on the closed-loop management of the supply chain from green design to green procurement, production, distribution, and end-of-life treatment. Currently, the framework includes an existing standard of general guidelines and an upcoming standard for the battery industry, requiring the suppliers and manufacturers to provide green materials and green products. The criteria for green materials and green products are defined from a resources, environment, and human health viewpoint.

The green supply chain management framework is the new regulatory tool adopted by Chinese authorities to achieve green, low carbon and circular development. The criteria for green materials and green products are defined from a resources, environment, and human health viewpoint.

In respect of resources, the qualified supplier of “green materials” needs to provide information relating to resource efficiency, resource availability, resource accessibility, and resource recyclability. This will be further stressed in the new regulations for comprehensive resource utilization and extended producer’s responsibilities.

From the environmental perspective, “green material” should be delivered with quality datasets for product environmental footprint, life cycle assessment, substance management, etc.

Regarding health, the framework requires toxicity data of substances. These data and information will be considered at the first stage of “green design”, determining the selection, reduction, or deselection of certain substances and materials.

The Nickel Institute is pleased to provide inputs to the discussions for nickel and nickel compounds, thanks to its extensive scientific and (eco)-toxicological database and studies, also including recent life cycle assessments and carbon footprint information.


Photo by Road Trip with Raj on Unsplash
Photo by Road Trip with Raj on Unsplash

China’s 14th five-year Plan provides many opportunities for nickel and nickel-containing materials, as they offer sustainable solutions to meet the objectives of many of the various strategies proposed.

Furthermore, the wealth of scientific knowledge that is available for nickel and nickel compounds, including toxicity and ecotoxicity data, LCA data, will help secure the role of nickel-containing materials in green, low carbon and circular development.