China sets a 5% growth target as parliament convenes

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for the opening session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, March 5, 2023 (Photo: Thomas Peter/ Reuters)

China's National People's Congress (NPC) began its annual parliamentary session by announcing a modest economic growth objective of approximately 5 per cent.

The session, which began on Sunday in Beijing, is also expected to grant President Xi Jinping a third term in power and enact the most significant government restructuring in a decade.

Premier Li Keqiang, who is leaving office, opened the conference at 9:00 a.m. (1:00 p.m. GMT) by reading a work report that stated it was crucial to prioritize economic stability and set a goal of "around 5%" economic growth, one of the lowest in decades.

The study also established a goal of producing approximately 12 million urban employees this year, up from at least 11 million last year.

China's gross domestic product (GDP) rose by only 3% last year, one of its worst performances in decades, due to three years of COVID-19 restrictions, a crisis in its huge property sector, a crackdown on private enterprise, and a decline in export demand.

"Global inflation remains high, global economic and trade growth is losing steam, and external attempts to suppress and contain China is intensifying," Li said in his statement to inaugurate the parliament, which will last until March 13.

"At home, the foundation for stable growth must be strengthened, insufficient demand remains a significant issue, and private investor and business expectations are unstable," he said.

According to the report, the Chinese government set a budget deficit target of 3 per cent of GDP, up from around 2.8 per cent last year.

For this year's parliamentary session, Li and a slate of more reform-oriented economic policy officials will be replaced by loyalists to Xi, who strengthened his grip on power by securing a third leadership term at the Communist Party Congress in October.

Former Shanghai party boss Li Qiang, a longstanding ally of Xi, is set to be confirmed as premier and tasked with revitalizing the second-largest economy in the world during the NPC.

State media reported on Tuesday that the rubber-stamp parliament would also consider Xi's proposals for an "intensive" and "extensive" reorganization of state and Communist Party enterprises, with observers anticipating a broader infiltration of the Communist Party into state bodies.

Li stated in his work report that China's armed forces should devote more resources to training under combat conditions and enhancing combat readiness. This year's budget includes a 7.2 per cent increase in defence spending, a slightly more significant increase than last year's budgeted 7.1 per cent increase and once again exceeding expected GDP growth.

I took a moderate stance on Taiwan, stating that China should foster the peaceful development of cross-Strait ties and forward the process of China's "peaceful reunification" but also take decisive measures to prevent Taiwan's independence.

With 2,948 delegates gathering in the vast Great Hall of the People on the west side of Tiananmen Square, the NPC was inaugurated on a smoggy day in the Chinese capital amid tight security.

It is the first NPC meeting since December when China abruptly abandoned its zero-COVID policy in response to rare countrywide demonstrations.

Director of the SOAS China Centre at the University of London, Steve Tsang, stated that Xi now has the opportunity to demonstrate his response to the turbulence of the previous year.

"He took immediate action when protesters demanded that he and the CCP step down. "He quelled them and eliminated the root cause," he told AFP.

"He can present himself as a leader who initiates action rather than one who is forced to react."

China faces numerous obstacles on a global scale, including deteriorating relations with the United States, which is attempting to block its access to cutting-edge technologies, and tense relations with Western Europe, a crucial trading partner, as a result of Beijing's diplomatic support for Russia in its war against Ukraine.

Publish : 2023-03-05 12:12:00

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