China's new Premier Li Qiang warned of 'many new challenges' to economic growth
Beijing (AFP) - China’s new premier warned Monday that the country’s five-percent growth target for 2023 would not be “easy” to achieve, as its rubber-stamp parliament wrapped up over a week of meetings.
The government set the economic growth target of “around five percent” this month, one of the lowest in decades as China emerged from strict zero-Covid rules that dragged on its GDP.
And Li Qiang – one of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s most trusted allies, confirmed as premier over the weekend – admitted that goal would be hard to attain.
“I’m afraid that reaching our growth target of around five percent will be no easy task, and will require that we redouble our efforts,” Li said at a press conference in Beijing held to mark the closing of the National People’s Congress (NPC).
China posted just three percent growth last year, missing its stated target of around 5.5 percent by a wide margin as the economy strained under the impact of strict Covid policies and a property crisis.
Li said Monday that the modest figure “has been determined after a comprehensive consideration of various factors”.
He warned of “many new challenges” to growth, but added that most people “don’t fix their sights every day” on the country’s economic indicators.
Instead, he said, they care more about “specific issues close to them” such as housing, employment, income, education and health.
He also hit out at the United States, with relations at lows not seen in decades as the powers grapple over trade, technology and security.
“Encirclement and suppression are not advantageous for anyone,” Li said.
“China and the United States should cooperate, and must cooperate. When China and the US work together, there is much we can achieve,” he added.
- ‘Irreversible’ rise -
Li’s comments cap more than a week of high-level meetings in Beijing.
President Xi, addressing the closing session of lawmakers in his first address since being handed a third term – and further cementing his position as China’s most powerful leader in generations – emphasised the need to strengthen national security.
He thanked the thousands of delegates at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People for giving him a third term, vowing to “take the needs of the country as my mission, and the interests of the people as my yardstick”.
“Security is the bedrock of development, while stability is a prerequisite for prosperity,” Xi said.
“We must fully promote the modernisation of national defence and the armed forces, and build the people’s armed forces into a Great Wall of steel that effectively safeguards national sovereignty, security and development interests.”
He also called for consolidated stability in once-restive Hong Kong and unification with the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which China considers its territory.
“The trust of the people is the greatest driving force pushing me forward, and also a heavy responsibility on my shoulders,” he said.
“The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation has entered an irreversible historical process.”