What can we retain from the Prime Minister’s speech?

The Two Assemblies began on May 21. The report of Prime Minister Li Keqiang’s government is now officially in place. In order to shed some light on the updates, I watched the assemblies and read several analysis.

Different and complementary views

First, the explanations of two economists on one of the national channels, CCTV4. Obviously, there were no direct criticisms but the tone was an optimist one . However, it is important to listen to this sound bite because the speakers explain the government’s intentions and actions from the inside. The Taiwanese media are insisting on the bill announced for Hong Kong, strengthening the enforcement process for the protection of national security.  The columnists invited to the channel think that the concept launched by Deng Xiaoping “One country, two systems” is coming to an end to give way to “One country, one system”. It is thought that individual departures from Hong Kong to Taiwan will accelerate (article on the subject).

Six points to remember

Chinese-born journalist Wang Jian, who has been living in the United States for a few years, has a more balanced view. After an amused remark about Xi Jinping, who applauded Li Keqiang’s report, in contrast to his reaction last year, Wang points out the important points :

1. In the fight against the epidemic, China has achieved great results, but we must continue to be vigilant.
2. The main tone is in the phrase “The challenge of risks 风险挑战”, which calls for not lowering our guard in these complicated times.
3. For this exceptional year, there will be no targets for growth. For Wang, local leaders need leadership, they have role models, and depending on their growth targets, they know what guidance they can give on how much credit to extend and which investments to implement or attract. Official economists note, however, that the Prime Minister has given a lot of numbers and direction.

Premier ministre chinois

4. Emphasis was placed on employment, welfare and the “well off” society, 小康. The target for cities this year is 9 million new jobs compared to 13 million last year and unemployment at 6%. The speech does not say so, but it is clear that the economy is not in good shape. Nothing could be more normal with the jolts of last year’s trade war and, above all, a quarter punctuated by the epidemic.
5. The debt will be raised to 3.6% of GDP. It will be increased by 1,000 billion yuan ($160 billion) and at the same time 1,000 billion Special State Bonds to Fight the Epidemic – 抗疫特别国债 – will be created, less than expected; analysts were expecting it to be at least double. Apparently, the concern is to contain debt growth. This increase is intended for local governments and above all for investments in infrastructure and the health sector, as well as for spending in the fight against the epidemic, without forgetting the need to maintain a level of welfare – the 6 stabilities and the 6 guarantees. Economists believe that public revenues will fall this year by 8 to 9,000 billion yuan.
6. Hong Kong: Wang Jian, a former journalist in Hong Kong, has the same opinion as his Taiwanese colleagues. China’s reaction to counter popular protest rings the end of the Hong Kong exception. The stock markets echoed this fear yesterday with a 5.56% drop in the Heng Seng index and a 2.2% fall in the Shenzhen financial centre on the other side of the border. For him, the Chinese Communist Party shows its DNA: fight, 斗。When we look back at the past 70 years, the quiet days are in the minority, the struggle and fighting are omnipresent. The last supposed fight against corruption that began with the arrival of Xi Jiping brought all his enemies, who threatened his power, to heel. With Hong Kong, there is no respite.

Whatever one’s political opinions is, it must be acknowledged that, after a big delay until mid-January, the Chinese government has rather effectively fought against the epidemic and is well armed to cope better than Western countries. The two assemblies have just started, it is still too early to draw a conclusion. The only real surprise is the announcement about Hong Kong. 

As the government’s website points out, Li Keqiang’s speech was interrupted three times by applause. All is well then!If you are interested in this subject of Chinese political life, the two assemblies, you can read our articles on the subject : 

Four points to follow in Beijing

The high points of the two assemblies

End of the epidemic?

23 may 2020

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