In a recent meeting, the Chinese premier Li Keqiang once again emphasized the urgency of stabilizing the economy. One may notice that his many speeches have departed from parroting those made by leader Xi Jinping. 

On July 7, Li Keqiang held a meeting in Fujian province with the top representatives of the provincial administration as well as those from Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Guangdong. 

According to state media Xinhua News Agency, Li said the government must fulfill its role in containing the pandemic. However, they must also pay attention to unraveling the blockades in industrial and supply chains.

Discussing the economy, the Chinese Premier was candid that the current situation is challenging. He admitted the foundation for recovery is not solid, and stabilizing the economy will require hard work.

Citing the role of the southeast coast area in China’s economy, he urged the leaders to return economic operations to normal as soon as possible. He also told them to tackle the industrial chain and supply chain challenges.

On inter-provincial migrant workers, Li emphasized that everything should be done to stabilize jobs, adding that the government must strive to stabilize the employment of local and migrant workers.

He also appealed for the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta to speed up the level of collection and distribution of ports and other foreign hubs to stabilize foreign trade and foreign investment. Li, nonetheless, attributed the hurdles in reopening up to international changes.

Although Li did reiterate the strong leadership of Xi Jinping, his tone about China’s economy has been somewhat different from that made by the Chinese leader about a week prior.

On June 28, Xi paid an inspection visit to Wuhan City, Hubei Province. That day, Xi said the Omicron variant pandemic was a big test. Instead of the economy, the Chinese leader believed it was more important to put people first and life first. 

He said, quote, “It is better to temporarily let economic development be affected and protect the lives and health of the people, especially children and the elderly. Statistics have shown that our pandemic prevention measures are the most economical and effective,” end quote.

Commenting on the disparity, Lu Tianming, a Chinese current affairs observer in the U.S. said Xi Jinping cannot admit that zero-COVID has been a failure. This would give his adversaries grounds to undermine him.

Yet, it is impossible for premier Li Keqiang to agree with Xi Jinping’s direction in pandemic control. Since the beginning of this year, China’s economy has been faltering in all aspects because of Beijing’s approach to containing COVID-19. 

Speaking to media outlet Da Ji Yuan, Lu said as the Premier of the State Council, it is Li’s responsibility to handle economic problems. Lu supposed Li does not want to be held accountable for the dreary economic state the country is currently in. 

That should be why Li would never say anything specific about the zero-COVID policy, but he would mention stabilization and opening up.

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