Chinese Premier Li Qiang holds a meeting with the Director-General of the World Trade Organization ahead of the World Economic Forum’s New Champions meeting in Tianjin, China, June 26, 2023.

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BEIJING — Chinese Premier Li Qiang said on Tuesday that China is still on track to achieve its annual growth target of around 5%.

Growth in the second quarter is expected to be faster than in the first quarter, he said.

China’s economy grew by 4.5% in the first quarter, better than expected. Subsequent data, however, pointed to a slowdown in growth. Economic data in May missed analysts’ expectations.

“From this year’s perspective, China’s economy has shown a clear rebound and improvement momentum,” Li Keqiang said in an official English-language live broadcast.

Li Keqiang delivered the speech at the opening plenary session of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions.

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The conference will be held in Tianjin, China, from Tuesday to Thursday. This year’s gathering is the first time the World Economic Forum’s annual China meeting has been held in person since the outbreak.

Li Keqiang became premier in March after a twice-a-decade leadership reshuffle in October, with an inner circle packed with loyalists of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China announced in March a growth target of around 5% for the full year. At that time, Li Keqiang told reporters that China’s economy was picking up, and some international organizations had raised their growth forecasts for the whole year.

On Tuesday, China’s premier reiterated the upward revision to the forecast, but again did not mention specific institutions or dates.

Economists’ forecasts for China’s gross domestic product this year have fluctuated.

Several investment banks, including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, UBS and Bank of America, have cut their full-year GDP forecasts for China in the past few weeks. Earlier this year, many companies raised their growth forecasts for 2023.

In June, the World Bank raised its forecast for China’s economic growth this year to 5.6 percent from 4.3 percent previously.

The International Monetary Fund raised its forecast for China’s GDP growth to 5.2% in April from 4.4% previously.

About de-risking and safety

Li Keqiang also stressed on Tuesday the need for cooperation on global trade and economic growth.

“As you know, some people in the West are trumpeting the rhetoric of reducing dependencies and de-risking,” he said. “I want to say that both concepts are false propositions.”

Li Keqiang said that economic globalization has made the world economy a whole, the interests of all countries are closely linked, and the economies of all countries are interdependent and interrelated. “We can contribute to each other’s success.”

China is the main trading partner of many countries in the world, even the largest trading partner.

In his speech on Tuesday, Li Keqiang emphasized that “security” was of paramount importance in the context of “cherishing peace and stability”.

“In official Chinese jargon, we compare security to the number 1, and other numbers, that is, many zeros after it,” he said.

“From an American point of view, if there is no number one, all the zeros after it will be nothing,” Li said through an official English translator.

Beijing has increasingly emphasized the need to ensure national security. The term has also been cited by the U.S. in recent actions such as restricting China’s access to high-end semiconductors.

Earlier this year, then-Vice Premier Liu He spoke at the World Economic Forum Annual event in Davos, Switzerland.

Liu He said in his speech that “high-quality economic development must always be (China’s) goal”, and China will pay more attention to attracting foreign investment.

— CNBC’s Jihye Lee contributed to this report.

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