The National People’s Congress also set to hand Xi Jinping a third term as president and implement the biggest government shake-up in a decade.
China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) has kicked off its annual parliamentary sessionannouncing a modest target for economic growth at about 5 percent.
The session, which began in Beijing on Sunday, is also set to hand President Xi Jinping a third term in office and implement the biggest government shake-up in a decade.
Outgoing Premier Li Keqiang opened the meeting at 9am (01:00 GMT), reading out a work report that said it was essential to prioritise economic stability and set a goal of economic growth at “around 5 percent”, one of the country’s lowest in decades.
The report also announced a target of creating about 12 million urban jobs this year, up from last year’s mark of at least 11 million.
China’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by just 3 percent last year, one of its worst showings in decades, squeezed by three years of COVID-19 restrictions, crisis in its vast property sector, a crackdown on private enterprise and weakening demand for Chinese exports.
“Under the strong leadership of the Party Central Committee, we carried out COVID-19 response and pursued economic and social development in an effective and well-coordinated way,” the government report said.
“Overcoming great difficulties and challenges, we succeeded in overall stable economic performance,” it added.
The Chinese government also set a budget deficit target at 3 percent of GDP, according to the report, widening from a target of approximately 2.8 percent last year.
This year’s parliamentary session will see Li and a slate of more reform-oriented economic policy officials step aside, making way for loyalists to Xi, who further tightened his grip on power when he secured a precedent-breaking third leadership term at October’s Communist Party Congress .
During the NPC, former Shanghai party chief Li Qiang, a longtime Xi ally, is expected to be confirmed as premier, tasked with reinvigorating the world’s second-largest economy.
The rubber-stamp parliament, which will end on March 13, will also discuss Xi’s plans for an “intensive” and “wide-ranging” reorganisation of state and Communist Party entities, state media reported on Tuesday, with analysts expecting a further deepening of Communist Party penetration of state bodies.
The NPC opened on a smoggy day amid tight security in the Chinese capital, with 2,948 delegates gathered in the cavernous Great Hall of the People on the west side of Tiananmen Square.
It is the first NPC meeting since China abruptly dropped its zero-COVID policy in December, following rare nationwide protests.
Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute at the University of London, said Xi now had an opportunity to flaunt his response to the pressure created by last year’s unrest.
He acted decisively when the protests included calls for him and the CCP to step down. He quashed them and removed the basic cause,” he told the AFP news agency.
“He can present himself as leading from the front, rather than being pushed to react.”
Globally, China faces numerous headwinds, including worsening relations with the United States, which is trying to block its access to cutting-edge technologies, and fraught ties with Western Europe, a crucial trading partner, over Beijing’s diplomatic support for Russia in its war in Ukraine.