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Chinese premier warns world entering period of political and economic upheaval

 March 5,2017 12:29pm



Chinas premier has warned the world is entering a period of profound political and economic upheaval as the spectre of Donald Trump hung over the opening day of the countrys annual national peoples congress. Speaking in the Great Hall of the People, the cavernous Mao-era building where China hosts its most important political spectacles, Li Keqiang urged China to brace for more complicated and graver situations ahead, as a result of developments both in and outside China. A good year for Xi Jinping but trouble is heading his way Read more There are many uncertainties about the direction of the major economies policies and their spillover effects, and the factors that could cause instability and uncertainty are visibly increasing, Li warned in what appeared to be in part an indirect reference to Trumps shock election. Trump, who has described China as an enemy of the United States, has repeatedly threatened to play hardball with Beijing over trade, stirring fears of a potentially destablising trade war between the worlds two largest economies. During his speech to Congress last Tuesday Trump claimed the US had lost 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001. Addressing about 3,000 delegates in the Tiananmen Square auditorium, Li sought to contrast China with Trumps increasingly inward-looking America, warning that both the deglobalisation trend and protectionism are growing. China is a responsible country, he said. In the face of profound changes in the international political and economic landscape, China will always stand on the side of peace and stability, will forever be committed to equity and justice, and will always work for world peace, contribute to global development, and uphold the international order, Li said. Advertisement We will ... oppose protectionism in its different forms [and] become more involved in global governance. In what appeared to be another indirect swipe at Trump, who has threatened to withdraw from the Paris climate deal, Li said: We played our part in ensuring that the Paris agreement was put into force. Lis speech, in which he also announced that China would lower its annual growth target to around 6.5%, comes less than two months after Xi Jinping used an address to the World Economic Forum in Davos to position China as a champion of globalisation and a responsible global player. Many have balked at the suggestion that Xis increasingly repressive and protectionist China might become a standard-bearer for a progressive economic policies. However, Kerry Brown, a professor of Chinese politics at Kings College London, said Trumps election meant the world was looking to Beijing for leadership like never before on issues such as trade and climate change. Now China is a stabiliser rather than a destabiliser. Suddenly these congresses are not just about domestic issues they are actually a global power doing global things because of the space that America, Brexit and others have opened up around it. So they have a much much bigger potential impact. Little in the way of policy will be decided by the annual two-week meeting of the national peoples congress, a rubber-stamp parliament which rarely challenges pre-agreed Communist party plans. However, the summit does mark the beginning of a crucial year in Chinese politics. This autumn President Xi, who took power in late 2012, will reach the midway point of his decade-long term in power, an event that will be marked by the Communist partys 19th congress. Intense political jockeying is already underway to decide which politicians will be handed a place at the Communist partys top table, the Politburo, at that meeting. Advertisement The stakes are very, very high, said Brown, the author of CEO, China: The Rise of Xi Jinping. If the congress is remotely interpreted as divided or fractious then that is a big, big failure. So I am sure it will be hugely controlled, very, very tightly scripted with a very simple message that reform is still on track. Beijing has used the annual gathering to hammer home the supremacy of President Xi, a 63-year-old strongman widely seen as the countrys most powerful leader in decades. During his 105-minute speech, Li repeatedly referred to Xi as Chinas core a title bestowed on only four Chinese leaders since 1949 and urged Communist party cadres to rally around him as China faced a new era of uncertainty. Xis position as the core was of crucial and far-reaching significance for ensuring the flourishing and long-term stability of the party and the country, the premier said. An editorial in the Peoples Daily, the partys official voice, called on congress members to follow the correct political direction by throwing their support behind comrade Xi. Dali Yang, an expert in Chinese politics from the University of Chicago, said Xis elevation to such a position indicated the party elite believed strong, vigorous leadership was now needed to help China navigate choppy waters. Beijings message was that this is a challenging time for China, given the global situation, the domestic economic slowdown, the arduous challenges in so many different areas, and therefore we have agreed that there should be one foremost leader. Xi is someone who is very comfortable with power and who feels like he is in a position to use that power to help the party and the country [build] China into a truly modern nation, Yang added. As they streamed out into Tiananmen Square after the premiers address, delegates spoke effusively about a leader who is now so powerful some call him the Chairman of Everything. China is a big country, and such a big country needs a leader who is able to play an essential role in dealing with domestic and international affairs, said Zhou Hongyu, a university professor and education official. Zhou played down the idea that the premiers warnings about global instability had been directed at Trump alone. I cant say it has nothing to do with Trumps presidency, he said. However, if we look at the issue in a broader sense, say, Brexit, Le Pen in France ... the global uncertainties have been prominent.

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