Li maintains focus on economy amid rising tensions
Economic growth key to tackling domestic, external risks: experts
Published: May 28, 2020 09:08 PM Updated: May 28, 2020 11:07 PM

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang: Xinhua Photo

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday sent the clearest signal yet that China will maintain its strategic focus on keeping domestic social and economic development stable, even as the country faces an increasingly complex and challenging external environment marked by near "cold war" tensions with the US.

In a wide-ranging press conference after the conclusion of the two sessions that touched on topics ranging from the newly passed national security legislation for Hong Kong, to diplomatic and trade tensions with the US, to Taiwan question, the Chinese Premier largely kept the focus on China's domestic policy priority - protecting jobs, livelihood and business and stabilizing economic growth.

China's fixation with tackling the domestic challenges posed by the COVID-19 epidemic also stood in stark contrast to some other countries, most noticeably the US, that have been seeking to divert attention from their domestic woes with warmongering rhetoric, which further shed light on China's plan to tackle foreign risks: a sound domestic development is key to all problems at hand, analysts noted.

A staff member of a subway station watches live coverage of China's Premier Li Keqiang speaking at a press conference in Beijing on Thursday. Photo: AFP

Domestic priority  

"[Economic development] remains the key and foundation for China to address all problems," Li said during the roughly two-hour press conference, vowing to take sufficient fiscal, monetary and other policy tools to protect jobs, livelihood and business - the overarching theme of this year's two sessions.

This year's two sessions, which concluded on Thursday, came at a time of extraordinary circumstances for China posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the geopolitical tensions it sparked. 

Domestically, the Chinese economy is facing unprecedented pressure due to disruptions caused by the pandemic. China opted not to set a GDP growth target this year. Li indicated that China could achieve GDP growth and if policies are carried out to protect jobs and livelihood, and businesses are protected.  

Still, what has been making headlines around the world are the escalating tensions between China and the US over a wide range of issues -from trade to technology, to China's internal affairs in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang. In light of the tensions since the COVID-19, some observers have even declared a "new cold war" between the world's two biggest economies. 

But the Chinese Premier made it clear that China's focus is on its domestic development. Li answered 11 questions, with over half of them focused on the domestic economy. Even when asked about hot-button topics, he was noticeably concise.

Commenting on China-US tensions, Li reiterated a long-standing stance that despite differences, the two countries should seek win-win cooperation. On the national security law for Hong Kong, Li said that the legislation was aimed at ensuring the long-term stability and prosperity of Hong Kong. On Taiwan question, he sent well wishes for the peace and health of residents in the mainland and on the island.

Aerial photo taken on May 22, 2020 shows a bulk carrier loading cargoes at a newly built coal berth of Caofeidian Port in Tangshan, north China's Hebei Province. Caofeidian Port's coal berth is a coal discharging project in north China and its construction will be carried out in phases. The first part of the project's Phase Three has been put into use with an expected annual throughput of 50 million tonnes. (Xinhua/Yang Shiyao)

The biggest takeaway from the Chinese Premier's press conference was the unmistakable focus on domestic issues rather than the intense dispute with foreign powers, Chinese experts said on Thursday.

"What we can draw from the press conference is that China's overall approach to this very special period with very special challenges is to keep the domestic situation stable," Li Yong, deputy chairman of the Expert Committee of the China Association of International Trade, told the Global Times on Thursday. "Without a sound economy and stable livelihood, we have no strength to tackle all other issues." 

Li noted that China's approach to focusing on stabilizing the domestic situation is the "right direction" as opposed to the approach adopted by some Western countries, including the US, where officials have been falling short in efforts to contain the pandemic and revive their economies, while stirring up tensions across the world. 

"They can be very loud, but in the end, it's all about the strength of their economy and society," he said.

The focus on the domestic situation was also vivid throughout the weeklong two sessions, during which prescribing a cure for the virus, Chinese economy and protecting jobs remained a top priority among Chinese lawmakers and political advisers.

"This year's two sessions is the most extraordinary one I have ever experienced, with a big battle and test in a special historic moment," Yang Yuanqing, chairman and CEO of Lenovo and a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC), the top legislature, told the Global Times on Thursday, noting that economic recovery and livelihood was the top priority and responsibility.

Zhu Lieyu, another NPC deputy from South China's Guangdong Province, said that with all the policy measures laid out during the two sessions, he is confident China will reach its economic and social goals for the year.

"I am very confident in the economic development and building a moderately prosperous society in all respects," Zhu told the Global Times on Thursday, referring to the goal to double 2010's GDP and income in 2020.