The Government of the People’s Republic of China opted for prudence when announcing the country’s economic growth target for 2023. Aware of the impact of the pandemic and other “domestic and international factors” on the Chinese economy in 2022, the Prime Minister, Li Keqiang, revealed this Sunday that Beijing’s estimates point to a growth of around 5% in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The target falls short of the 6% that has been advanced in recent days by the international press, and that may have been influenced by the shot to the side last year: in 2022, the Chinese Government had defined a growth of 5.5%, but the GDP grew by just 3%, the second worst since 1976.
Alongside inflation and the widespread effect of the war in Ukraine on global distribution and supply chains, part of the explanation for the 2022 results may lie in the prolonged duration of the Chinese “covid zero” policy, a sanitary approach marked by strict confinement of buildings, streets, neighborhoods, cities and entire regions to the slightest outbreak of covid-19, and by large-scale testing operations of the population, which only began to be abandoned in November.
“Global inflation remains high, the global economy and trade growth is running out of steam, and external attempts to suppress and contain China are escalating. Internally, the foundation for stable growth needs to be consolidated. Insufficient demand remains a significant problem and the expectations of private investors and companies are unstable,” said Li Keqiang, quoted by Reuters.
Economic analysts say that overly ambitious growth would have to be accompanied by a stimulus policy, something that they believe could jeopardize the political leadership’s long-term economic goals.
“[O Governo] does not announce any massive stimulus and this results, in part, from the recognition that exports – the main growth engine of China’s economy in the last three years – are probably not going to be as good next year”, he tells the guardian Victor Shih, a professor at the University of California, San Diego.
A few days before the end of his term, the Chinese prime minister delivered his remarks at the official opening of the 14th National Congress of the Chinese People, in Beijing — China’s annual legislative session, which will last for another two weeks, and in which reforms and other relevant political decisions already decided, in advance, by the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will be announced and approved.
In his address to some 3,000 regional delegates at the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square, Li Keqiang — who is expected to be officially replaced next week by Li Qiang, the CPC’s secretary in Shanghai and a figure close to the President, Xi Jinping — also announced yet another increase in China’s defense budget.
After the 7.1% increase in military spending announced for 2022 — estimated at around 215 billion euros —, the Chinese Government is now opting for an additional 7.2% of spending on its Armed Forces.
This is the eighth consecutive annual increase, and it accompanies not only the investment assumed by Beijing in military “modernization”, in the reinforcement of its operational capacities and in the expansion of the number of troops, but also the increase in military spending all over the world. world, in part influenced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the escalation in geopolitical competition with the United States, in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.
In a more moderate tone than usual, Li Keqiang referred to Taiwan saying that the Government “will resolutely fight against independence” from the territory claimed by the CCP as a Chinese province. He chose, even so, to underline the “peaceful” aspect of the objective of reunification.
“We will promote the peaceful development of cross-strait relations. [de Taiwan], with a view to promoting a peaceful reunification process. We must promote economic and cultural cooperation between the two sides, as well as policies aimed at improving the well-being of compatriots,” he said.
The annual session of the National Congress takes place in parallel with the meeting of the Chinese People’s Consultative Council, a political advisory body that started its work on Saturday. Neither one nor the other body has, however, great autonomy, limiting itself to approving the policies and appointments decided by the PCC leadership.
This year’s sessions are expected to confirm Xi’s reappointment to an unprecedented third presidential term, the announcement of the next prime minister and other key ministers, and an unprecedented reform of the state organization, which should strengthen the party’s control over some regional and sectoral structures of the Chinese state.