China increases its defence budget amid ‘escalating’ external threatChina targets GDP growth of 5 percent for 2023, up from 3 percent it achieved in 2022.
While the global economy is set on a downward spiral this year, China, in contrast, is aiming to become one of the world’s fastest-growing major economies.
The assertion was made by the outgoing Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in his opening remarks at the 14th National People's Congress (NPC), which got underway on Sunday at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. China aims to achieve a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 5 percent for 2023. The country’s GDP growth rate for 2022 stood at 3 percent.
While presenting his report on the work of the government for about an hour in the presence of around 3,000 delegates in the Great Hall, Li marked the conclusion of his decade-long stint in office.
Though Li asserted that the nation's economic development and progress would be accelerated, he could neither provide a compelling justification for the assertion nor a categorical solution to the country’s current problems.
In particular, given the global economic turmoil caused by the effects of the Covid pandemic and its subsequent impact, and the uncertainty brought by the Russia-Ukraine war, Li did not mention the foundations to which the Chinese growth plans are anchored.
Although the prime minister’s report discussed how to address the internal challenges in the economy, the report is unclear on how the country will handle external economic challenges.
“Confronted with new downward pressure on the economy, we acted decisively and made timely adjustments. We made use of the policy tools kept in the reserve over the years, proactively adopted pre-determined policies, and remained firm in advancing supply-side structural reforms,” Li said in his address to the NPC.
Beijing also announced an increase of 7.2 percent in its military spending while warning of an ‘escalating’ threat from abroad. Mentioning the uncertainties in the external environment and attempts to contain China being on the rise, Li said that China was constrained to increase its military budget. With this, it is expected that the People's Liberation Army will have nearly $255 billion to spend in the year 2023.
The outgoing Chinese premier said that under the leadership of Xi Jinping, the country had successfully contained the Covid pandemic. Although Li applauded President Xi for his leadership to contain the pandemic during the NPC meeting, it is widely believed that the two had diverse opinions on Xi’s zero-Covid policy.
While presenting the report on the work of the government over the past five years, Li claimed that more than 32 million people were lifted out of poverty by providing employment opportunities. The report claims that the government had provided unemployment benefits to more than 10 million people in total.
“China’s GDP increased to 121 trillion yuan, registering an annual growth rate of 5.2 percent over the past five years,” said Li. “Over the past decade, GDP has increased by almost 70 trillion yuan at an annual rate of 6.2 percent.”
“We should adhere to the party’s basic policy on religious affairs, and follow the principle that religions in China must be Chinese in orientation,” the report on the work of the government stated.
The subject of adherence to President Xi's philosophy has been ranked top among the 29 recommendations made in the report for the government to implement in 2023.
The 14th NPC, which is China’s top legislature and the most powerful state body under the Chinese constitution, began its meeting on Sunday and would conclude on March 13. It’s almost certain that the fourth session of the current NPC will re-elect Xi Jinping as China’s president for a third consecutive term.