Xi Jinping has described security as the bedrock of China’s development, declaring that the military would build a “great wall of steel” to defend the country’s sovereignty. But his incoming premier Li Qiang struck a more conciliatory tone, stressing the importance of relationship between China and the United States for both countries.
They were speaking at the end of more than a week of parallel, annual sessions of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislative body and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), an advisory body. Mr Xi, who was elected to a third term as president during the meeting in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, known as the Two Sessions, said a stronger military would safeguard China’s national sovereignty, security and development interests.
“Security is the foundation of development, and stability is the prerequisite for prosperity,” he said.
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Mr Xi’s unanimous re-election as president came amid heightened tensions with Washington following last month’s shooting down of a Chinese balloon over US airspace. But the accord between Iran and Saudi Arabia brokered in Beijing last week highlighted China’s growing importance as a diplomatic actor in the Middle East.
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China and the United States can and must co-operate. There is a lot that the two countries can achieve by working together
The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Mr Xi is planning to meet Vladimir Putin in Moscow next week and to speak to Ukraine’s President Volodomyr Zelenskiy. This follows China’s publication of a position paper calling for a ceasefire and the start of talks about a negotiated settlement to the war.
Mr Li, a longstanding ally of Mr Xi who was until recently Communist Party secretary in Shanghai, called for more goodwill between China and the US.
“China and the United States can and must co-operate. There is a lot that the two countries can achieve by working together,” he said. “Encirclement and suppression is in no one’s interest.”
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For the most part, Mr Li focused on China’s economic recovery during his first press conference as premier as he sought to reassure the business community that the private sector remained at the heart of China’s path to prosperity. He said the spirit of entrepreneurship in “clearing obstacles and blazing new trails” would always be needed.
“We will make further efforts to support private entrepreneurs to grow and thrive,” he said.
“Governments at all levels should make friends with entrepreneurs, build a friendly business environment and care about private entrepreneurs.”
We will make further efforts to support private entrepreneurs to grow and thrive
China has set an economic growth target for 2023 of 5 per cent of GDP, compared to the 3 per cent growth achieved last year. Although the target is modest by recent Chinese standards, Mr Li said it would be difficult to achieve in the face of global economic uncertainty.
He said the government would focus on maintaining stable economic growth, consumer prices and employment.
“Honestly speaking, most people do not keep their eyes on GDP growth all the time,” he said.
“What they care more about are the things that happen in everyday lives, like housing, employment, income, education, medical services and environment.”