(Singapore 6 March 2023) China is facing multiple challenges — the shadows of abandoned zero covid policy from within and the increased hostility from without — as it has started its annual legislative plenary session over the weekend.

Delivering his final work report during his two five-year terms, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang addressed nearly 3000 members of the country’s legislature that China is still a large, developing country.  He will retire next week after the annual session, which will formally assign senior government roles, concludes on March 13.

He warned that as the global inflation is high, while “external attempts to suppress and contain China are escalating”.

Nearly 3000 members of China’s National People’s Congress started their annual plenary session in Beijing on Sunday. Photo New York Times

Consumption has remained soft at home, the job market unstable, some officials have failed to fulfil their duties, and corruption remains a problem in the bureaucracy, he said.

He noted those among the multiple challenges that the country must confront.

He also said that China aims to expand economic growth by some 5% this year.

It is a relatively modest goal although slightly higher than last year’s 3% GDP growth – one of its worst performances since the 1970s. In fact, the world’s No.2 economic power fell short of its 5.5% target.

Some economists believed that even the 3% of the country’s official 2022 growth rate was overstated.

Challenges that top the government’s agenda this year include the creation of enough jobs for over 11 billion fresh universities graduates and how to revive the mired property market after a crackdown on developers for over-borrowing.

Other challenges, as quite a few western media companies report, include the escalated hostility from the US-led west and a battered public trust in the ruling party’s ability to manage.

Last fall, Chinese President Xi Jinping extended his rule into a second decade by taking a third term and the chief of the Communist Party of China. As he stays on as president for at least another five years, other likely appointments are widely expected to be his close allies.