BEIJING (AP) — China’s No. 2 leader announced a healthy economic growth target Friday and plans to make this nation self-reliant in technology amid tension with Washington and Europe over trade, Hong Kong and human rights.
The ruling Communist Party aims for growth “over 6%” as the world’s second-largest economy rebounds from the coronavirus, Premier Li Keqiang said in a speech to China’s ceremonial legislature. Some 3,000 delegates gathered for its annual two-week meeting, the year’s highest-profile political event, under intense security and anti-virus controls.
The party is shifting from fighting the virus that emerged in central China in late 2019 back to its longer-term goal of becoming a global competitor in profitable technologies including telecoms, clean energy and electric cars.
The NPC meeting usually focuses on domestic issues but increasingly is overshadowed by geopolitics as President Xi Jinping’s government pursues more assertive trade and strategic policies abroad, cracks down on dissent at home and faces criticism over its treatment of Hong Kong and ethnic minorities.
Also Friday, the government announced a 6.8% rise in military spending to 1.4 trillion yuan ($217 billion) as China faces tension with India and other neighbors over conflicting territorial claims and ambitions to match the United States and Russia in ballistic missile, stealth fighter and other weapons technology.
That figure in a budget report released while Li spoke is less than the double-digit increases of earlier years but outpaces economic growth and is a marked rise in real terms at a time when inflation is close to zero. Foreign analysts say total military spending is up to 40% more than the reported figure, which is the world’s second-highest after the United States.
China became the only major economy to grow last year, eking out a multi-decade low 2.3% expansion after shutting down most of its industries to fight the virus. Growth accelerated to 6.5% over a year earlier in the final quarter of 2020 while the United States, Europe and Japan struggled with renewed virus outbreaks.
Li vowed to “work faster to enhance our strategic scientific and technological capability” seen by communist leaders as a path to prosperity, strategic autonomy and global influence. Those plans are threatened by conflicts with Washington over technology and security that prompted then-President Donald Trump to slap sanctions on companies including telecom equipment giant Huawei, China’s first global tech brand.
The ruling party’s latest five-year development blueprint says efforts to make China a self-reliant “technology power” are this year’s top economic priority.
The party sees “scientific and technological self-reliance as a strategic support for national development,” Li said.
The premier warned there are unspecified “weak links” in virus-control work and said the foundation of economic recovery “needs to be further…
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