Chinese Premier Delivers First Government Work Report During Two Sessions

Government Work Report

Chinese Premier Li Qiang gave his first Government Work Report (GWR) during the Two Sessions on March 5th. The GWR is divided into three sections: a review of the government’s work in 2023; the requirements and policy orientation for economic and social development for 2024; and the major tasks for the government for 2024. During the first part of his speech, he summarized the Chinese government’s work in 2023, its achievements for the year, and how these achievements were due to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and the combined efforts of the CCP, the military, and “Chinese people of all ethnic groups.”

Second Section

Chinese Premier Li Qiang during 2024 Two Sessions

The second section outlined the various requirements and policy orientations that the government will take to develop the country economically and socially. Li urged the delegation to follow sixteen points that would allow the government to achieve its goals for 2024. These points range from following the guidance provided by Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era to boost economic vitality, prevent and defuse risks, improve public expectations, and maintain social stability. Li also outlined China’s 2024 projected main development targets as the following:

  • GDP growth of about five percent,
  • To create approximately 12 million new urban jobs,
  • urban unemployment of 5.5 percent,
  • CPI increase of three percent,
  • A growth in personal income that is correlated with economic growth,
  • A basic equilibrium in the balance of payments,
  • Grain output of about 650 million metric tons,
  • A decrease of about 2.5 percent in energy use per unit of GDP, and
  • Environmental improvements.

Li then went on to explain how China examined the domestic and foreign dynamics as well as what is possible when setting the targets. One consideration was how China would need to boost employment and income as well as decrease the amount of economic risk to meet the GDP growth of five percent. However, he also pointed out that meeting the targets “will not be easy,” so the government would “need to maintain policy focus, work harder, and mobilize the concerted efforts of all sides.” Li then elaborated on the three areas, fiscal, monetary, and macroeconomic policies, that the NPC could improve and strengthen to enable China to meet the targets he outlined.

Third Section

Li then described the major tasks that the NPC is required to complete in 2024 in the third section of the report. However, he first highlighted that the CCP Central Committee was the entity that adopted the guidelines for 2024’s work. Li then said that “we [the NCP] must fully carry them out, stay focused on principal issues, and work to remove development bottlenecks” to effectively perform. Then the Premier explained in detail the ten tasks that the NPC will complete for the year. The ten tasks correspond to the nine development targets for China to achieve in 2024 that Li mentioned in the first section.

These tasks include revitalizing the country via science and education, consolidating the foundations for high-quality development, modernizing China’s industrial system, and rapidly develop new quality productive forces. Other tasks are aimed at increasing China’s ability to ensure the country’s development and security while also preventing and decreasing risk in key areas and increasing the opening up and promoting mutual benefits of foreign trade and investment. Furthermore, the tasks also discussed enhancing ecological conservation while promoting green and low-carbon development, making efforts to deliver work related to agriculture, rural areas, and residents, and taking necessary steps to advance rural revitalization. One task called for ensuring and improving Chinese citizens’ wellbeing while promoting better and new ways of doing social governance.

After explaining the various tasks, Li then explained how all levels of government need to develop “a deep understanding of the decisive significance of establishing Xi as the core of the CCP Central Committee and the party as a whole. Li also said that the NPC needs to improve government performance by implementing the CCP Central Committee’s decisions and plans. He also said that the Congress will also uphold and improve the regional ethnic autonomy system by promoting exchanges, interactions, and integration of all ethnic groups and increasing the speed of the modernization drive in the minority regions. Li also briefly talked about how they will abide by the CCP’s religious affairs basic policy and ensure that all religions in the country are “Chinese in orientation.” He then said that the government will also provide the necessary guidance to the religions so they can be adapted to China’s “socialist society.”

Najiaying Mosque in Yuxi, Yunnan province before (2023) and after (February 2024) Sinicization (Chinese in orientation)

Regarding overseas Chinese, Li said that the government will enhance and improve its work related to improving relations with them. The government will also improve its work related to protecting the lawful rights and interests of Chinese citizens abroad, returned overseas Chinese, and relatives of overseas Chinese nationals in the country. The reason why is that the NPC can build a “powerful force for all the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation, both at home and abroad,” so they can devote themselves to the rejuvenation of the nation. Li then discussed the achievements China made in national defense and military development and how the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) achieved its missions and tasks. He also highlighted that the CCP will continue to implement Xi Jinping’s thoughts on strengthening the Chinese military and its strategy in the new era.

Regarding the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) meeting its centenary goal of ensuring it is progressing on its long-term military modernization, Li said it must “take critical steps to meet this goal. Li also urged the PLA to continue “all-around military training and combat readiness,” make efforts to improve preparedness in the military, and continue to devote efforts to training under combat conditions to protect China’s sovereignty and security interests.

Regarding Hong Kong and Macao, Li said that China will continue to implement the One Country faithfully and resolutely, Two Systems policy, which allows both regions to administer with “a high degree of autonomy.” Furthermore, he also said that the country is also committed to ensuring both Hong Kong and Macao are and will be administered by “patriots.” China will also support both regions to grow their economies and participate in the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area by leveraging their strengths.

Li also discussed the Taiwan question, where he reiterated China’s commitment to the on-China principle and the 1992 Consensus. He also said that the country resolutely opposed activities aimed at Taiwanese independence and interference by external entities. However, the Premier said that China will continue to promote peaceful development of cross-strait relations and to continue to be “firm in advancing the cause of China’s unification.” Li said that they will improve the “wellbeing of Chinese people on both sides” by emphasizing integrated cross-strait development and ultimately achieve the “glorious cause” of national rejuvenation.

Analysis

The GWR’s contents illustrate China’s continued worry about the recovery of its economy but also that the country will move to an economy based on slower but high quality growth or development. For example, the report used the phrases high quality development and new quality productive force when it described two of the ten tasks China must achieve in 2024. The phrases show that China will decrease its emphasis on infrastructure spending, especially in poor provinces or regions. The country will also increase the amount of investment it provides in the same regions to build technology parks and other areas. These parks would then develop and manufacture high technology equipment and software, such as advanced semiconductors and Artificial Intelligence (A.I.).

However, China also knows it would need to invest significantly into education to develop the necessary talent to create and sustain the high quality growth or development the country is counting on to meet its GDP target of five percent. Xi also emphasized both phrases during the meeting with the Jiangsu province NPC delegation on March 5th. His use of the two phrases further indicates that China will now focus on the two approaches to developing the Chinese economy and, more specifically, semiconductors, A.I., and other technologies affected by U.S. export controls.

Regarding preventing and decreasing risk, China also understands that the country’s continued economic issues, such as the real estate crisis, will continue to prevent the economy from growing. The lack of growth could lead the country to not meeting its GDP target but also other targets, such as creating 12 million new jobs and maintaining the equilibrium between income and economic growth. Furthermore, the lack of growth due to the systemic risks found in the Chinese economy will keep the country from attracting foreign investment but also lead to related problems such as inhibiting China’s development and security in various fields. These fields include the financial markets and banking system, but potentially the agricultural and ecological systems as well. The most significant risk China faces, however, is the inability for the country to prevent the risk from spreading to other markets, such as the banking sector.

The emphasis on trying to reattract investors to China in the GWR is also part of the government’s plan to develop high quality development or growth. The emphasis is also aimed at reorienting its economy from investment-focused growth to more sustainable growth based on consumer spending and value-added manufacturing based on technology.

Li’s quote that China will continue to be “firm in advancing the cause of China’s unification” is likely posturing towards Taiwan for intimidation purposes. Furthermore, the comment also likely does not mean China will increase its aggressive actions towards Taiwan. The reason why is that China lacks incentive to move towards more aggressive tactics against Taiwan since the country has always emphasized peaceful unification over invasion.

Xi Jinping also did not use the same or similar phrases during his meeting with the Kuomintang Revolutionary Committee, environmental, science and technology sectors on March 6th. However, Xi did use the phrases “complete the reunification of the motherland,” “promote reunification,” and “peaceful reunification” during the meeting. Xi not saying phrases similar to the GWR quote further indicates that China’s policy towards Taiwan has likely not changed and would not use more aggressive tactics.

Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin the panda began Sino Talk in 2022 primarily to give an objective, unbiased view on China related topics as well as other issues related to the Indo-Pacific region. He spent several years studying and traveling throughout China and many countries in the Indo-Pacific region. In another life, the panda was also a U.S. Marine intelligence analyst who enjoyed bamboo MREs and drinking bourbon and soju. Indo-Pacific Division Desk Chief for Atlas News.

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