According to the government, China's economy is expected to grow by "around five percent" this year. Prime Minister Li Keqiang presented the growth target in his statement of accounts at the beginning of this year's session of the Chinese People's Congress on Sunday in Beijing. After the abrupt end of the zero-Covid policy three months ago, the prime minister expects the second largest economy to recover significantly.
5.5 percent growth had already been targeted in the previous year, but the target was ultimately missed due to the burden of lockdowns, forced quarantine and mass tests. Only three percent could be achieved in 2022 - the second worst growth rate since 1976 and only slightly better than 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic with 2.2 percent. The country plans to increase its military spending by 7.2 percent this year. This corresponds to a significant increase in the defense budget to 1.5537 trillion yuan (equivalent to 211 billion euros).
The focus of the week-long meeting of almost 3,000 delegates in the Great Hall of the People is the formation of the new government. Party leader Xi Jinping will continue to consolidate his power as close associates move into government offices. At the party conference in October, the 69-year-old defied previous age and term limits and anchored his permanent leadership role in the party constitution.
After two terms in office, 67-year-old Premier Li Keqiang is retiring for reasons of age. He also did not belong to Xi Jinping's camp. The former party leader of Shanghai, Li Qiang (63), was chosen as the new head of government. Xi's longtime close follower is said to have economic expertise. He is not considered an ideologue or a simple “yes man” but rather a pragmatic manager.
The deputy prime ministers and top positions in the Treasury, the powerful Reform and Development Commission (NDRC), the central bank and the banking and securities regulator are also being replaced. Former chief of staff and long-time Xi confidant Ding Xuexiang is being discussed as the new executive vice premier.
Economic expert He Lifeng could take over the role of the outgoing Liu He, who led the trade talks with the United States, as another vice premier in charge of economics and finance. According to unconfirmed press reports, long-standing banker Zhu Hexin could replace the previous governor, Yi Gang, at the head of the central bank. However, experts missed the international experience of both personalities.
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