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Xi Jinping faces doubts at Parliament annual meet

Published : Mar 4, 2019, 5:01 am IST
Updated : Mar 4, 2019, 5:01 am IST

China reported 6.6 per cent growth in 2018, the slowest in nearly three decades.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (Photo: File)
 Chinese President Xi Jinping (Photo: File)

Beijing: China’s rubber-stamp parliament opens its annual session on Tuesday as President Xi Jinping faces growing concerns about the slowing economy, a major challenge to the country’s pre-eminent leader.

One year after the legislature abolished presidential term limits and etched Xi’s name on the constitution, his “new era” vision of a resurgent China at the centre of world affairs has hit road bumps. Economic growth is slowing, a festering trade war with the US has eroded confidence and Xi’s signature Belt and Road global trade infrastructure initiative has faced setbacks in some countries.

Bubbles of discontent have appeared as the state has pushed deeper into the economy and people’s lives. “This will be a much more difficult situation for Xi Jinping than last year. Last year he was riding high,” said Hong Kong-based political analyst Willy Lam.

Premier Li Keqiang is expected to open the National People’s Congress by announcing a lower GDP growth forecast for 2019, setting the tone for a session heavy on economic legislation and expected to last two weeks. Nearly 3,000 delegates will ratify a raft of bills in a session expected to last two weeks, including a foreign investment law that could address some US demands and possible tax cuts. “Xi Jinping has been criticised by party members for not handling the economy well, and failing to tackle the challenges posed by Donald Trump,” said Lam. Lam believes Xi avoided holding a fourth plenum of the party’s Central Com-mittee last autumn because of his weakened position. But he convened a meeting with hundreds of provincial and ministerial leaders in Beijing in January to warn them on the need to prevent “major risks” in politics and the economy.

“We must increase our readiness for unexpected developments, take precautions, and properly prepare for major risks that may arise in the economic field,” Xi warned.

China reported 6.6 per cent growth in 2018, the slowest in nearly three decades. Independent analysts estimate it was worse. Three-quarters of provinces have lowered annual growth targets for 2019. Delegates from around the country will convene for the NPC session and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body that runs simultaneously and begins discussions on Sunday. “Behind closed doors NPC members will demand Xi Jinping do something about reviving the economy,” Lam said.

Tags: xi jinping, donald trump