Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on May 25 presided over a meeting of over 100,000 officials to issue a stark warning about the “grim challenges” ahead for the country’s economy, which has been battered by the communist regime’s COVID-19 policies.
In a teleconference with representatives from provincial, city, and county levels of government, Li warned about the “apparent downward trend” across employment, manufacturing, electricity, and cargo transportation.
“The difficulties, in some aspects and to a certain degree, are even greater than 2020 when the pandemic hit hard,” he told the attendees, according to a summary from Chinese state media.
The scale of the conference, unseen for years, as well as the tone he struck in the remarks both suggest a sense of growing anxiety as the Chinese premier become increasingly vocal about the outlook of the world’s second largest economy.
A transcript of his speech posted online shows him calling for officials to “try to make sure” the Chinese economy will not contract in the second quarter.
“The goal is not high, and quite a distance away from the 5.5 percent growth target we raised at the year’s start, but this is what we must do judging from reality,” he said.
Investment banks such as UBS, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and JP Morgan have recently cut their China GDP forecasts due to the crushing effects of the regime’s “zero-COVID” policies.
“Unexpected” factors since March, such as COVID-19 outbreaks and the Ukraine war have dragged down the economy, Li said, adding that it would take “considerable effort” to reverse the current economic trajectory. April’s government revenue, after taking into account the tax refunds, has dropped by 5.9 percent, while the income for some local governments in the eastern coastal area of China plunged by as much as 32 percent, he said. He revealed that several provinces had requested to borrow money from China’s cabinet-like State Council.
By Eva Fu