China’s Prime Minister on Monday promised increased public spending to revive his economies after the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but he did not announce any large-scale aid package like those adopted by other powers such as the United States or Japan.
At the opening of China’s ceremonial Parliament, Premier Li Keqiang told lawmakers that Beijing will not set an annual growth target, as it always does at this event, given global uncertainty and in order to focus on fighting the local outbreak, which is in remission.
“The battle against the virus has not yet come to an end,” said Li, the second in China’s political hierarchy behind President Xi Jinping and the world’s second-largest economy manager.
Also today, with strict sanitary measures, such as the use of masks, legislators from the National People’s Congress began to debate a draft security law for Hong Kong that reflects Beijing’s intention to reinforce its control over the former British colony.
Details of the project were not released, but the United States warned it could revoke Hong Kong’s status as a preferred trading partner if it undermines “the high degree of autonomy” promised by Beijing for the territory.
The coronavirus pandemic, which forced China to isolate cities with a total population of 60 million people, added problems for a Chinese Communist Party that was already facing months of heavy pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and a trade war with the United States.
China recorded nearly 83,000 coronavirus cases and a total of 4,634 deaths since the pandemic began in its central city of Wuhan last December.
In the past 24 hours, the country has detected four new cases, including two in northeast Jilin province, the site of the latest coronavirus outbreak in China, health authorities quoted by the state news agency Xinhua reported.
China was the first country to close factories, businesses and ban travel to combat the pandemic, as well as the first to relaunch productive activities in March, although it is still far from pre-outbreak levels.
The abrupt economic crisis caused by the pandemic led to significant job destruction in China, of up to 25 million jobs, according to private estimates.
The premier said the central government will give local governments about 2 trillion yuan (about $ 280 billion) to prevent job losses, ensure that the basic needs of the population are met, and help businesses.
The budget deficit will be increased by 1 trillion yuan ($ 140 billion) to meet certain goals, such as creating 9 million new urban jobs.
The announcement is in line with expectations of an increase in Chinese spending to deal with the effects of the pandemic, but the increase is very small compared to the stimulus packages approved and under discussion in the United States, Japan and the European Union (EU).
“These are extraordinary measures for an unusual time,” Premier Li said in a televised speech.
The second largest economy on the planet had an interannual contraction of 6.8% in the first three months of the year, as a consequence of the closure of activities due to the coronavirus.
China is estimated to grow less than 6.1% in 2019, which was already the lowest growth in its GDP in several decades.