BEIJING — One year after China was battered by the coronavirus, the government promised on Friday a robust return to economic growth of “over 6 percent,” a signal that China is ready to do what it takes to keep the world’s second-largest economy running strongly.
As top officials laid out a confident vision for China’s ascent in the coming years, they also drew a hard line on perceived threats to the Communist Party’s authority in Hong Kong with a move to restrict democratic elections there, in the wake of the antigovernment protests that engulfed the city in 2019.
The commitment to relatively rapid economic growth rate is a positive sign for the global economy. It suggests that Beijing is willing to free up money to keep its economy humming rather than slowing down to address its ever-rising tide of debt. That means the Chinese economy will continue to buy much of what the world makes, including iron ore and computer chips.
China’s growth target comes as the virus has been all but halted within its borders, and as the number of cases has fallen steeply in recent weeks in countries like the United States and India.
China’s target for this year may be easy to achieve. It is well below what many Western economists expect the Chinese economy to realize. They have been forecasting an expansion of about 8 percent, as exports of manufactured goods continue to boom while the service sector rebounds from a very weak performance last year.
Even as he announced the target, China’s premier, Li Keqiang, warned of risks that lay ahead.
“As the coronavirus continues to spread around the world, instability and uncertainty are mounting on the international landscape, and the global economy continues to face grave challenges,” Mr. Li said as he delivered a report on the government’s work to the legislature, the National People’s Congress, at the start of its weeklong annual gathering.
The congress is also poised to intensify China’s clampdown in Hong Kong, building on a national security law that Beijing imposed on the city last year. This year, delegates are set to approve a proposal to drastically shrink democratic competition in local elections in the former British colony. The planned overhaul of Hong Kong’s election laws would make it very hard for democracy advocates to hold — or even contest — any positions of power.
China will rewrite the rules on how Hong Kong’s top local official, called the chief executive, and its legislature are chosen, Wang Chen, a Politburo member who specializes in legal matters, said in a speech.
He said that Beijing would overhaul the membership of the territory’s Election Committee, a body that chooses the chief executive, whose approximately 1,200 members are selected by groups that have typically been loyal to Beijing and the city’s business elite.
China will also set up a new, separate procedure to vet candidates for various levels of elective office in Hong Kong. Mr. Wang…
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