Chinese number 2 promises more jobs to support recovery | world news
BEIJING (AP) — The Chinese government hopes to create up to 13 million new jobs this year to help reverse a painful economic downturn, the country’s No. 2 said Friday.
Premier Li Keqiang has promised “employment-friendly policies” including tax and fee cuts totaling 2.5 trillion yuan ($400 billion) for businesses, especially small entrepreneurs.
Job losses soared after economic growth slipped to 4% year on year earlier in the final quarter of 2021, down from the 8.1% full-year expansion. It followed a slump in construction after Beijing tightened controls on debt in its vast real estate sector, adding to strains from the coronavirus pandemic and weak export demand.
China was hit this month with higher energy costs after Russia’s attack on Ukraine sent global oil prices soaring.
“China aims to create 11 million – or preferably 13 million – urban jobs in 2022,” Li said at a press conference after the annual meeting of China’s ceremonial legislature closed.
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Li also confirmed that he would step down at the end of his second five-year term next year. This is in line with the ruling party’s tradition since the 1990s of the leadership handing over power to a younger generation once a decade, but it’s worth noting at a time when President Xi Jinping is widely expected to challenge tradition and be nominated for a third term. as party leader later this year.
“This is the last year that I will be prime minister,” Li said.
Li called on Washington to repeal tariff hikes on Chinese goods imposed in a fight with Beijing over its technology ambitions, but gave no indication of possible concessions or other moves to resolve the dispute.
The two governments’ trade envoys have yet to meet since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021. They spoke by phone but did not announce any plans for face-to-face talks or changes to their official positions.
Li said Chinese business leaders had talked about backing tax cuts as the fastest way to create jobs instead of government investing or handing out vouchers to households to boost consumer spending. .
“We should rely on market-oriented ways and means to solve employment-related problems,” Li said.
Economic growth plummeted last year after Beijing tightened control over rising debt in the real estate sector, which Chinese leaders say is dangerously high. This triggered a slump in home sales and construction, important economic drivers.
Forecasters expect activity to weaken further before rebounding mid-year. This is partly due to Beijing’s willingness to rely on its traditional tool of encouraging real estate investment, which could drive up debt and housing costs.
The ruling party had earlier announced an annual economic growth target of 5.5%. That was the weakest target since the 1990s and would be a sharp drop from last year’s 8.1% growth.
Economists say even this modest target will require additional government stimulus. Li earlier announced plans to pump money into the economy through increased spending on public works, but said Beijing wanted to limit its budget deficit.
Li warned that global conditions are “very difficult” after earlier saying that meeting Beijing’s growth target will require “arduous efforts”.
The week-long meeting of the more than 3,000 members of the National People’s Congress took place against the backdrop of Russia’s war on Ukraine and the outbreak of COVID-19.
On Friday, Li called for ceasefire talks in Ukraine and pledged Chinese aid, but avoided criticizing Russia and gave no indication that Beijing was backing down from its support for President Vladimir Putin.
Chinese state media echoed Russia’s position and said Washington was responsible for the war.
The AFN meeting also served as a sounding board for public concerns including the trafficking of women and children following an outcry over reports of a mother found chained in a shed.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine echoes Beijing’s tensions with Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy that the ruling party claims as part of its territory and has threatened to invade.
A spokesperson for the NPC delegation of the ruling party’s armed wing, the People’s Liberation Army, this week blamed “separatist activities and collusion with outside forces” for tensions with Taiwan and said that the more “waves the United States and Japan make on the Taiwan issue, the tougher actions we will take.”
The White House and the US State Department this week accused Beijing of aiding Russian disinformation efforts, including false claims about US bioweapons labs and chemical weapons development in Ukraine.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Wednesday that China “urges the United States to release details of US-funded biological labs in Ukraine, including the types of viruses stored and research has been done.”
US State Department spokesman Ned Price called the allegations “brazen lies” fabricated by Russia “in an attempt to justify its own horrific actions in Ukraine”.
This week, China has seen the number of national COVID-19 cases reach highs that are low compared to much of the world, but have not been seen in China since the initial outbreak two years ago. years. On Friday, 397 cases of local transmission were reported across the country.
This story corrected the fact that the trade envoys have not met since Biden took office in January 2021, not 2020.
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