''Slow but steady'' is to be the watchword in China's economic development program for the next several years. Premier Zhao Ziyang has unveiled a 10-point economic program that includes few details and that is expected to be periodically adjusted in the light of actual experience.
In a report to the National People's Congress delivered Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, Zhao made clear that economic modernization remains the cornerstone of the current leadership's policies.
He warned against two faults: pessimism that ''ignores favorable conditions, '' and ''seeking unrealistically quick results.'' The current program of readjustment, aimed at seeking a better balance between light and heavy industry , and between agriculture and industry as a whole, will need to be carried on for five years or more, he said.
While Zhao spoke of a sixth five-year plan, he gave no details and said the plan was still in the drafting stage.
In 1982, he said, agricultural and industrial output would rise by 4 percent over that of this year. The readjustment policy has fallen hardest on heavy industry, once the darling of communist planners. During 1981, heavy industry output will decline by 5 percent compared to the year before, Zhao said.
The decline was steepest in the first two quarters, when many heavy industry plants closed down or attempted, often unsuccessfully, to shift to consumer goods. As economic bureaucrats better understood the relationship between heavy and light industry and as a prosperous countryside fueled demand for consumer items, however, heavy industry gradually recovered. Next year should see a positive growth rate.
Finance Minister Wang Bingqian reported that revenues and expenditures in 1982 would increase by 4 percent over those of the current year. A deficit of 3 billion yuan is expected next year. This is slightly more than the 2.7 billion yuan ($1.76 billion) foreseen this year.
Capital construction in 1982 will continue to be held down, Wang said. This year it was cut drastically from 1980's figure of 53.9 billion yuan to 38 billion yuan ($22.35 billion).
In short, the immediate outlook for the Chinese economy is for cautious growth and policies that will favor, if possible, the use of local and regional funds.
The National People's Congress has now moved to committee sessions to discuss Zhao's proposals in detail. Constitutional revision, a topic originally scheduled for the current session, will be postponed till next year.