The Government Work Report delivered by Premier Li Keqiang 李克强 on 5 March was sombre, reporting lower growth and referring repeatedly to economic headwinds. The implied political ‘risks and concerns’ he references are more difficult to parse but refer to the social effects of continuing trade pressure and slow growth. Long-standing ambitious targets have not been abandoned, but are subject to modification in light of new political and economic realities.
The 2019 government work report places heavy emphasis on the ‘new urbanisation’ initiative, pledging hukou reform, urban governance improvements, and better coordination, connectivity, and integration within city clusters.
Unleashing internal demand through state-led infrastructure investment, tax cuts, and consumption promotion is the macroeconomic theme; this flows from strategies set at the December 2018 Central Economic Work Conference and quarterly Politburo economic meetings.
The ‘Two Sessions’, annual legislative and consultative meetings now underway in Beijing are never as merely decorative as often portrayed. The bills voted on have been debated for months, sometimes years, and while appearance on the agenda makes their passage virtually certain, deliberation has often been lengthy and contentious.
World headlines were dominated first by US-China trade talks and then the Kim-Trump summit in Hanoi, heavy with China implications. Both resulted in stalemate, with decisions placed on hold or rhetorically finessed.
US-China trade negotiations are nearing their 2 Mar 2019 deadline before another tariff hike. After China promised to import more US products at a late January meeting, the two sides met again 14-15 Feb 2019 in Beijing before moving to Washington.
economy: small giants, rural financial services, recapitalising financial markets, oil and gas reform
Helping SMEs become highly specialised and innovative ‘small giants’ is a 2019 priority, said Miao Wei 苗圩 as his Ministry of Industry and IT launched a C¥60 bn financial guarantee fund for SMEs.
On 23 January, Wang Junzheng 王君正 Changchun Party secretary chaired the first meeting of the city’s expanded Production Safety Committee, reviewing its work in 2018 and setting 2019 goals. Less than 3 weeks later, just as Spring Festival celebrations concluded, came news of Wang’s transfer to Xinjiang to serve on the province’s Standing Committee.
Bring our annual arts special home for Chinese New Year and immerse yourself in contemporary gongbi fine line painting. This year, Julie Segraves, executive director of the Asian Art Coordinating Council (AACC) in Denver, guides us through the oeuvre of six painters pushing the traditional brush techniques of bird-and-flower paintings in unique new directions.
Party and government officials insist central policy goals have not changed, and 2019 is a crucial year for achieving them. What is new is the urgency with which challenges to reform are conveyed, and the opportunity for local reforms.
National Bureau of Statistics’ year-end data shows the population aged 60 and older is at some 250 million—18 percent of the total. Rapid ageing, longer lifespans, and rising chronic illness highlight pension shortfalls and the need to improve aged care services.
A new college examination and admission system or gaokao is emerging from the most radical education reform since 1977. In September 2014, State Council greenlit Zhejiang and Shanghai to shake up ‘exam-oriented education’, eliminating performance-based streaming, overemphasis on grades and obsession with gaokao scores in college admission.