China’s main goals in 2024: Economy, Defense, Taiwan, Youth, Diplomacy

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Chinese Prime Minister Li Qiang presented the annual government work report on Tuesday, explaining the main goals of the ruling Communist Party during 2024.

The main goals that the Chinese government aspires to work on during the year 2024 revolve around five main points, each of which poses a challenge to Beijing and the country’s future.

 

Economy

China has set an economic growth target of about 5% in 2024, which is similar to last year but well below what it recorded in previous decades.

China is facing difficulties to maintain the growth rate achieved after the prolonged closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic, under the burden of the real estate sector crisis and weak consumption.

Li Qiang told Chinese Communist Party members, including President Xi Jinping, that the country would seek steady growth in consumer spending and de-risk the mortgage loans, and the government’s domestic debt.

Beijing will remove more barriers to foreign investment and appropriately reduce tariffs on imports of advanced technology and equipment, Li said at the Great Hall of the People in the Chinese capital.

China’s economy grew by 5.2% in 2023, according to official figures, one of its lowest rates in years.

 

Defense

China’s military spending is expected to rise by 7.2% to 1.665 trillion yuan ($231.4 billion) this year, according to a separate budget report.

This figure is largely consistent with the increases announced in previous annual labor reports.

However, some Western analysts believe that Beijing is pumping in a large amount of additional funds to develop its armed forces without officially disclosing it.

The increased spending comes at a time when signs of tension appear in China’s relations with many neighboring countries.

Tensions have escalated in recent years as Beijing seeks to assert its sovereignty claims over Taiwan and disputed areas in the South China Sea.

 

Taiwan

Regarding Taiwan, Li said China would firmly oppose separatist activities aimed at independence for the self-governing island and any external interference in its affairs.

Li Qiang said that Beijing would seek to develop relations with Taiwan peacefully, but didn’t commit to peaceful unification, as stated in previous years’ reports.

China says that Taiwan is part of its territory and refuses to rule out the use of force to return it to its control one day.

It has maintained a tough stance towards Taiwan’s ruling party since its candidate, Lai Ching-ti, won the island’s presidential elections in January.

It described the president-elect as a “separatist” and sent warplanes and naval ships around the island almost daily.

Relations with Taipei witnessed further deterioration last month when two Chinese sailors died in an accident in which the Taiwan Coast Guard was involved near Kinmen Island, which is administered by Taipei.

 

Youth

The labor report said Beijing would step up measures to boost youth employment, an issue that is at the heart of China’s economic crisis.

Unemployment rates among 16 to 24-year-olds have risen since the outbreak of Covid-19 and have become a politically sensitive topic for the Communist Party.

The National Statistics Office stopped publishing the youth unemployment rate for several months since last summer after the rate exceeded 20%.

The rate resumed publication in December after its calculation methods were modified.

About 15% of young people were registered as unemployed that month.

Tuesday’s report said Beijing will implement a range of measures to ensure stability in employment and promote income growth.

Nationally, the government program aims to create more than 12 million new jobs in urban centers and keep the urban unemployment rate across all population groups at about 5.5%.

The Chinese prime minister, also promised improved health care and social security services and a proactive national strategy in response to accelerating population aging.

 

Diplomacy

Li Qiang said China would adhere to its independent foreign policy of peace and peaceful development, however, he added that Beijing “will remain steadfast in opposing all acts of hegemony, tyranny and arrogance,” without referring to any country by name.

China has clashed with the United States and other Western powers in recent years over technology, trade, human rights and other issues.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has previously used similar rhetoric in its response to Washington’s actions, which China sees as an obstacle to its development.

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