By Jing Xuan Teng

China’s leaders on Monday wrapped up a week-long key conclave at which they admitted more was needed to revive a sluggish economy battered by an ailing housing market, poor domestic demand and record-high youth unemployment figures.

A security official checks seating for Chinese leaders before the start of the closing session of the 14th National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11, 2024.
A security official checks seating for Chinese leaders before the start of the closing session of the 14th National People’s Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11, 2024. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP.

Top officials have been upfront about the myriad challenges China is facing, admitting that a modest five percent growth goal will not be easy and that “hidden risks” are dragging the economy down.

But details of how they plan to tackle the problems have been scant. They have also simultaneously moved to deepen powers to deal with threats to their rule and tightened a veil of secrecy around policymaking, scrapping a traditional annual press conference and vowing to include national security provisions into a raft of new laws.

Delegates to the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s parliament, gathered at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People to rubber-stamp legislation at 3:00 pm local time (0700 GMT) as the conclave came to an end.

Among the legislation approved was a revision to the Organic Law of the State Council, China’s cabinet, which state media has said will aim to deepen the “leadership” of the ruling Communist Party over the government.

They also approved the country’s state budget and the national economic and social development plan for 2024.

Only a handful of the body’s almost 3,000 delegates voted against any of the motions.

The tightly choreographed event capped a week of high-level meetings that have been dominated by the economy, which last year posted some of its slowest growth in years.

On Saturday, ministers pledged to do more to boost employment and stabilise the country’s troubled property market.

“Workers face some challenges and problems in employment, and more effort needs to be made to stabilise employment,” Wang Xiaoping, minister of human resources and social security, told a press conference.

And housing minister Ni Hong added that fixing the property market — which long accounted for around a quarter of China’s economy — remained “very difficult”.

More action needed

Despite official pledges of fresh support, analysts say they are yet to see the kinds of big-ticket bailouts the flagging economy needs if it is to rebound.

“Reviving the economy requires boosting household wealth and income, something China’s leaders clearly aren’t yet ready to do,” said analysts at Trivium, a research firm specialising in China, in a note.

And throughout the “Two Sessions”, officials have appeared reluctant to face questioning about the myriad economic headwinds China is confronting.

Last week, they broke a decades-long tradition by scrapping a press conference by the premier — long a rare chance for foreign media to question the country’s number-two official.

The topic was swiftly removed from search results on Chinese social media giant Weibo, as was a hashtag declaring “middle-class children have no future”.

Lawmakers have also vowed to adopt wide-ranging security laws in 2024 to “resolutely safeguard” the country’s sovereignty, further expanding the Communist Party’s powers to punish threats to its rule.


Beijing, China

Type of Story: News Service

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