New Chinese premier lays out government priorities for next five years Chinese Premier Li Qiang

Chinese Premier Li Qiang met with the Chinese and foreign press at the Great Hall of the People after the conclusion of the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress (NPC) on March 13, 2023.

Speaking on the final day of the legislative session that saw the installation of a new lineup of leaders, Li offered an attractive palette of economic and social reforms that pledges to focus on high-quality development, create a better environment for private and foreign enterprises, step up policy support for employment and promote rural revitalization by deepening reform, while adhering to the people-centered development philosophy.

As Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee said in a deliberation with deputies from the delegation of Jiangsu Province at the first session of the 14th NPC, that high-quality development is the foremost task in building a modern socialist country in all respects.

The government report issued last week set a moderate GDP growth rate forecast of 5 percent amid daunting external challenges. In reply to a question about this growth target, Premier Li disclosed that “it was not an easy task” and stressed that redoubled efforts were necessary to pursue high-quality development.

China’s economy has kept steady growth in the past decade. China’s GDP has risen from 54 trillion yuan ($7.83 trillion) to 114 trillion yuan ($16.52 trillion), accounting for 18.5 percent of the world economy, up 7.2 percentage points. Now China has not only become a major trading partner for over 140 countries and regions, but can boast of having the largest manufacturing sector in the world.

In 2022, facing incessant epidemic flare-ups and external challenges, China’s economy did not meet the target but managed to secure a 3 percent growth rate, higher than the U.S.’s 2.1 percent, Germany’s 1.8 percent and Japan’s 1 percent. China’s consumer price index (CPI), a major gauge of inflation, saw a mild increase of 2 percent in 2022, standing in stark contrast with the much higher inflation in many developed countries.

Moreover, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) in February reached 52.6 percent, rebounding by 2.5 percent and hitting an almost 11-year high, showing that the market players remain optimistic about China’s growth potential in 2023. China’s swift economy recovery since the optimization of COVID-19 control measures also boosts the confidence of many international organizations in global economy growth.

Why should the government strive for high-quality development? Well, the ultimate aim of development is to improve the well-being of its people, as evinced by policy adjustments in 10 editions of COVID-19 prevention and control protocols in the past three years. Premier Li explained that the government must act according to the people’s aspirations, since most ordinary people do not pay close attention to GDP figures, but they are concerned about their daily livelihood conditions such as housing, employment, income, education, medical service, environment, etc.

Moreover, Li reiterated that China’s commitment to the development of the private sector is unequivocal and steadfast. The policy to encourage, support and guide the development of the non-public sector is a significant element of China’s basic economic system. To restore the confidence of private entrepreneurs, Li pledged to nurture a business environment that is market-oriented, law-based and internationalized. Property rights of enterprises and the rights and interests of entrepreneurs must be protected.

Accordingly, realizing the problem of an exodus of talent and labor shortage during the lockdowns due to the pandemic, Li has sought to restore confidence for China’s embattled entrepreneurs. In early December, he chaired a meeting with China’s leading industry association where he promised to create a much better environment for private business.

The premier also pledged to shore up policy support for employment not only in terms of employment services and technical training, but to stabilize and expand employment. Noting that a record high of 11.58 million college graduates are expected to enter the work force, the premier vowed to support young people to realize their personal values through hard work. In addition, in response to the concerns over China’s rapidly aging population, he said that China’s “demographic dividend has not disappeared, while a talent dividend is in the making” due to the quality improvement engendered by education.

Last but not the least, as China is building into a strong agricultural nation, the central government seeks to foster new industries and new forms of business in rural areas to inject vitality to agricultural and rural development.

Last week, the State Council unveiled a sweeping reform plan for its departments. It can be expected that with more efficient and integrated institutions, the new Cabinet stands prepared to steer China towards full-fledged economic recovery and social advancement. – CGTN

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