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Chinese premier explains policies amid economic pressure, Ukraine crisis

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By Sadia Khan

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Friday briefed reporters on China’s policies to grow its economy amid a prolonged pandemic and the country’s stance on the Ukraine crisis and its relations with the United States.

Li answered 13 questions at a press conference in Beijing after the closing of the fifth session of the 13th National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature. More than half of the questions focused on Beijing’s approaches to address economic and social challenges brought or exacerbated by COVID-19.

‘Ambitious’ growth target

China has set its economic growth target at around 5.5 percent for 2022, which Li described as “ambitious,” given the new downward pressure faced by the world’s second-largest economy.

An increase of around 5.5 percent on the basis of a gross domestic product (GDP) of over 110 trillion yuan (about $17.4 trillion) would generate the amount of output equivalent to the size of a medium economy, he said

China will increase government spending and extend tax and fee cuts to enable steady growth, said the premier. He expressed confidence that the economy will be able to overcome difficulties and achieve major development objectives this year.

He underscored efforts made by the Chinese government to streamline administration, delegate power and improve regulation and services in recent years, vowing to spur the vitality of market entities through reforms

China will continue to make its COVID-19 response more scientific and targeted based on the epidemic situation and new developments and features of the virus, he said.

Commenting on the latest resurgence of COVID-19 in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), he urged the HKSAR government to assume primary responsibility in containing the virus and reaffirmed the central government’s full support for the fight.

China to play positive role for peace in Ukraine

China supports all efforts to resolve the Ukraine crisis by peaceful means, and is willing to work with the international community to play a positive role for an early return of peace in the country, Li said.

Russia and Ukraine have held three rounds of peace talks and a meeting between their foreign ministers since Moscow launched a “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, without achieving any major breakthrough.

Li called for utmost efforts to support Russia and Ukraine in overcoming difficulties to carry forward ceasefire negotiations. He stressed that the pressing task now is to prevent tension from escalating or even getting out of control.

China has provided Ukraine with humanitarian assistance and will continue to do so, he added.

The Red Cross Society of China sent the first batch of humanitarian aid supplies worth 5 million yuan (about $791,000) to Ukraine earlier this week.

Calling the current situation in Ukraine “disconcerting,” Li reiterated China’s stance that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected, the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter should be fully observed, and the legitimate security concerns of all countries should be taken seriously.

China, U.S. competition should be healthy

Li said China-U.S. cooperation benefits both countries and the world, calling for more dialogue and communication between the two sides.

China and the U.S. are both permanent members of the UN Security Council, and are the world’s largest developing country and developed country respectively, he noted, adding that tackling global challenges requires joint efforts and cooperation of both countries.

“Cooperation should be the mainstream because global peace and development hinge on cooperation,” Li said. Even if there is market competition between the two countries in economy and trade, it should be healthy and fair, he stressed.

Bilateral cooperation has extensive areas and much untapped potential, he said. If the U.S. eases its export restrictions on China, trade volume of both countries will be even bigger and thus both sides will get benefits, he added.

The premier also reiterated commitment to the one-China principle and opposition to separatist activities seeking “Taiwan independence.”

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