In his first public address since assuming office, China's new premier Li Qiang attempted to restore confidence in the country's economy. It will be "difficult" to meet the 5% growth target set last week, he said, but "the economy is strengthening and picking up again."
The effects of Beijing's zero-Covid policy on the world's second-largest economy are still being felt. Moreover, a population decline and job losses pose obstacles.
In recent years, investors' confidence has suffered as a result of China's leader Xi Jinping's consolidation of power and crackdown on private businesses, ranging from tech companies to the tutoring industry.
Mr. Li stated, in an attempt to allay these concerns, "During a period last year, inaccurate beliefs about the growth of the private economy alarmed some business owners. The environment for the private economy would continue to improve, and its space would expand."
Mr. Li also adopted a more conciliatory stance towards the United States. He mentioned that China and the United States should and must work together. When China and the United States work collaboratively they can accomplish a great deal as suffocation and encirclement are not beneficial for anyone. As Shanghai's party chief, he oversaw one of the harshest zero-Covid lockdowns that crippled China's economic hub, leaving many without food.
Officials of the party frequently went above and beyond to implement what was considered Mr. Xi's signature policy, which was reversed in December due to widespread protests. Although Mr. Li's appointment was virtually assured following the Party Congress in October, he was only formally appointed during the Two Sessions, the annual meetings of China's legislature and top political advisory body that concluded on Monday.
As premier, he is now responsible for managing China's economy, and his promotion has surprised many, as he has no experience working in the central government, unlike almost all of his predecessors. Between 2002 and 2007, he worked closely with Mr. Xi in one of China's most prosperous provinces, Zhejiang. Victor Shih, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, says, "Running the State Council machinery will require some adjustments, but he probably had some "practise" during Zero-Covid, when Shanghai, the largest city in China, had to work closely with State Council agencies and he took over the Covid leading group for months." "When it comes to things that are important to Xi, there won't be much room for change. But Li might be able to convince Xi more easily."
During the Two Sessions last week, Mr. Xi, who is the most powerful leader since Chairman Mao Zedong, also won a historic third term as president. After the two-term limit on presidential terms was lifted five years ago, many people also thought this would happen.
Mr Xi mentioned on Monday that this was his third time as president of the country. It is the trust of the people that drives him the most and makes him feel like he has a lot of responsibility. He said that security is what makes growth possible and that stability is a must for prosperity.