The Chinese Communist Party is struggling to improve its economy so as not to lose legitimacy

«Struggle creates the future». With this battle cry, Premier Li Keqiang concluded his speech at the opening ceremony of the National People's Congress, the annual meeting of the apparatus's pseudo-legislature and, of course, the main political event in China. Now, contests for power are taking place not in Ukraine or Gaza, but within its crumbling economy.

Of all the words spoken in the People's Assembly this morning, not a single number mattered: the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth target for 2024. It was set up by the mouth of the Prime Minister. , « in about 5%. In the face of sharp structural imbalances like debt burden, youth unemployment, demographic crisis, deflation, geopolitical tension in the real estate sector, a modest and at the same time ambitious brand points to a systematic decline.

The Chinese economy is passing through its most critical moment in decades, obstacles that Li did not ignore in a statement, divided into two as usual: first, praising last year's performance, Then send the priorities of the current. “In the face of an extraordinarily complex international environment, the Central Committee of the Communist Party, centered on Comrade Xi Jinping, has provided people with unification and guidance,” he praised. […] Coping with external pressure and overcoming internal difficulties.

In 2023, GDP will register 5.2% – a growth rate that the Prime Minister today boasted would be “in the top tier of the world's major economies” – a figure both implausible and wishful thinking. A disaster 2022. , the second worst year in nearly half a century as a result of the collapse of the Covid-zero policy. Maintaining the same percentage in 2024 would be highly desirable in the absence of a comparability effect. Logan Wright, an analyst at Rhodium Group, estimated during a digital briefing last week that last year's actual figure would have been around 1.5%, which is more in line with the country's socioeconomic reality.

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Numerical warning

Therefore, the GDP data revealed this Tuesday does not reflect the progress of the economy as much as the attitude of the ruling leadership on the matter. “Aim low [que en 2023] Mistrust can worsen It occupies many corners of the Chinese economy “Conversely, higher would indicate that aggressive stimulus is in the works, but also raise concerns that wasteful debt-based policies will be revived.” Faced with this dilemma, Xi Jinping, published last year Beginning by reiterating the demonstrative adverbial phrase “around,” she chooses to remain, like a virgin.

In his speech, Li Qiang also pointed to other priorities, the second and third of which were to “create more than twelve million jobs in urban areas” and “maintain the urban unemployment rate calculated by surveys at “approximately 5.5%”. This emphasis on employment, economic weakness, for prosperity Explains how freedom of trade threatens to undermine a social contract.

In its latest report, which covers the fourth quarter of 2023, the China Dissent Monitor, a project of Freedom House, a US firm responsible for gathering information on demonstrations. These increased between 30 and 50% during this period., respectively, compared to the previous two. “This indicates an increase in protests in China. Work (61%) and housing (17%) were the most frequent,” the text says.

However, moderation does not affect all sports equally. A report prepared by the finance ministry for the occasion established a 7.2% increase in the defense budget. Without necessarily linking the two issues, of course, the Prime Minister has insisted on a “solution of the Taiwan issue”.

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“We must […] Both separatist measures aimed at Taiwan's independence and interference by external powers must be firmly opposed, and it is in promoting the peaceful development of relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and a firm and unwavering drive. A great reason for the reunification of the motherland», he announced. In the opaque mathematics of Chinese politics, an array of factors alters the product: only a careful reading reveals the calculated division between noun and adjective, “reunification” and “pacification,” a common phrase in earlier interventions.

Li Qiang has declared his desire to create more jobs in urban areas and keep the unemployment rate low.

Default, or nearly so

“When we look back at the last year, we see that […] Our country's economy has grown, albeit with ups and downs. […] achieved far from easy victories,” Li said. “At the international level, the lack of strength for the global economic recovery, the intensification of geopolitical conflicts and the rise of protectionism and unilateralism put the negative impacts on a steady increase.” “At the national level, the three-year impact of the pandemic has resulted in […] Long-accumulated fundamental contradictions were quickly brought to light.

In fact, only the end of the health crisis has allowed the National People's Congress to begin 2019 with a normal status this Tuesday. Hosts of journalists walked unfettered through the People's Hall, trying to address one of the nearly 3,000 provinces. Who will be represented in the next few days? They pretend to agree with the trend of the country. “Of course the economy will be better,” Geng Funeng, one of the Sichuan delegates, told this newspaper. “This meeting is important as it deals with all aspects related to the community and is important to our growth from year to year.”

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In short, a mystical icon of parliamentary life was dissolved after it was confirmed that for the first time in three decades the Prime Minister would not make his traditional appearance before the press at the end of the Assembly next week. A testament to the regime's secrecy and, moreover, that the secondary authority of the party and state has declined in the face of Xi's undisputed personal leadership. Fighting creates the future, but both are their own thing.

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