According to state media, China’s cabinet conducted an emergency meeting with more than 100,000 people on Wednesday, as top authorities demanded further steps to stabilise an economy devastated by the country’s draconian Covid-19 regulations.
According to a report in the government-owned Global Times, officials from the province, city, and council levels attended the unscheduled video teleconference held by the State Council. High-ranking Chinese officials were also present, including Premier Li Keqiang, who encouraged the government to take measures to keep jobs and reduce unemployment.
Since a Covid pandemic developed in March, the world’s second-largest economy has suffered across all industries, requiring lockdown measures in many big cities, most notably Shanghai, where many people have been unable to leave their homes or neighbourhoods for a month and a half.
According to Global Times, Li stated that the economic effect experienced in March and April topped that of 2020 when the original epidemic of the coronavirus in several ways. He cited a number of factors, including reduced industrial production and cargo transportation.
The premier has grown increasingly outspoken about the economic crisis in recent weeks, describing the situation as “complicated and terrible” earlier this month — but his words on Wednesday may present the most bleak image yet.
This year, investment banks are lowering their projections for China’s GDP. UBS cut its full-year GDP growth projection to 3% earlier this week, citing concerns from Beijing’s stringent zero-Covid policy. China has stated that it anticipates 5.5 percent growth this year. The world’s second largest economy grew by 8.1 percent last year and will rise by 2.3 percent in 2020, the weakest rate in decades.
According to government-owned news outlet Xinhua, the teleconference follows a State Council executive meeting on Monday, during which authorities unveiled 33 new economic measures, including increasing tax refunds, extending loans to small businesses, and providing emergency loans to the hard-hit aviation industry.
Several of the 33 policies also ease Covid curbs — such as lifting restrictions on trucks traveling from low-risk areas, reported CNN Business.
Li encouraged government agencies to adopt the 33 measures by the end of May during the meeting on Wednesday. According to Xinhua, the State Council would dispatch task teams to 12 provinces beginning Thursday to supervise the implementation of these regulations.