As reported by Bloomberg on May 26, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang are playing different tunes in their anti-epidemic and economic policies. As a result, local officials struggle to follow their contradicting diktats, affecting the pace of China’s economic growth.
In an impromptu speech, President Xi called for a “people’s war” against Covid-19 at the start of the epidemic in February 2020.
Premier Li held a video conference with officials across the nation on May 25, warning that the current economic crisis is worse than two years ago. He called on officials to strive to balance anti-epidemic measures and economic development.
Ground-level government officials are confused about who they should follow: Xi’s insistence on the Zero-Covid approach or Li’s urge to bolster the economy to meet predetermined growth targets.
On May 25, Wall Street Journal also reported the divergence in instructions of China’s top two leaders regarding Covid-19 control.
Xi has spoken about the necessity for more global collaboration in vaccine research, but he has not publicly underlined the need for vaccination in China’s population.
According to one of the participants in the May 19 meeting with Li, the premier clearly wants a different focus.
Trey McArver, a co-founder of research firm Trivium China, said that while Li didn’t criticize the Covid-Zero measures, he showed palpable frustration with the slow-pacing implementation among local authorities.
He added that Li is now in the impossible position of trying to save the economy without being able to change the one policy – Zero-Covid – that is wreaking the most havoc on the nation’s economy.
Paralysis is present in various aspects.
Regarding market sentiment, the benchmark CSI 300 index stayed unchanged after falling 1.1% on May 25, while Hong Kong stocks slumped.
The surveyed unemployment rate jumped to 6.1% in April.
Bloomberg’s aggregate index of eight indicators shows the world’s second-largest economy remained in a deep slump in May.