A Dipping Point

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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang held a large nationwide teleconference this week with more than 100,000 local officials to bolster the country’s economy which has been deeply impacted by the government’s restrictive anti-Covid measures, CNBC reported Thursday.

Li told the officials during the “emergency meeting” that the economy was at a “critical point” and faces “grim challenges.” He said authorities must “work hard” to bring it back “to the normal track.”

He added that the economy had slowed that much only once, in 1990, over the past 40 years, the Washington Post said.

China has been trying to contain its worst coronavirus outbreak since early 2020 through its “zero Covid” policy: Under the policy, Chinese authorities have placed a number of cities under strict lockdowns that have forced consumers to stay at home and impacted assembly lines, causing a steep dip in production and sales for foreign companies.

China’s gross domestic product increased at 4.8 percent in the first quarter of the year, falling short of the official annual target of 5.5 percent. the New York Times noted. The youth unemployment rate also hit 18.2 percent, just as millions of Chinese university students are about to graduate.

While the number of new Covid cases in some regions has decreased, observers said that local authorities have been more cautious about lifting restrictions. This week, two more investment banks lowered their GDP forecasts for China, one to as low as three percent.

Analysts said that the scale of the meeting highlights the seriousness of the situation. They added that such direct communication would improve implementation policies but it’s unclear how effective the new measures will be.

Meanwhile, others have questioned why Li did not mention President Xi Jinping during his announcement, fueling speculation that there might be a conflict emerging between the two leaders over pandemic policy.

Xi has recently called on officials to double down on the “zero Covid” strategy.

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