Premier Li Keqiang Meets the Press: Full Transcript of Questions and Answers
The Fourth Session of the 13th National People’s Congress held a press conference at the Great Hall of the People on the afternoon of March 11, 2021. Premier Li Keqiang met with Chinese and foreign reporters and answered their questions at the invitation of Spokesperson Mr. Zhang Yesui.
In his opening remarks, Premier Li Keqiang said that he was delighted to meet friends from the media and thanked the journalists for their hard work in covering China’s NPC and CPPCC Sessions. He noted that the press conference was again held via video link this year and then opened the floor for questions.
CNBC: Premier Li, the coronavirus pandemic has affected the way in which many jobs are done and located. What changes has China seen in the last year for its jobs in terms of quality and salary? And what specific measures will China take especially as the population ages? How has this affected consumption especially for foreign brands?
Premier Li: Employment is of paramount importance for a family and a country. In the raging times of COVID-19 last year when bustling streets were deserted and shops were closed, our biggest concern was massive job losses.
I recall a visit to a small shop during a local inspection tour. The shop owner told me that he was practically out of business for almost three months, but because of the government support in tax and fee cuts, exemptions of utility bills and rents, and wage subsidies, he managed to pull through and didn’t let any employee go. I asked him if he could still afford to pay his employees wages. He said he gave them some living allowances. There were some 20 employees on the spot. They all said they had nothing to complain about when they could still have something to cover their basic needs in such difficult times. Both the company and the employees were aware that as long as the company and jobs were there, once production was resumed, business would go up.
Last year, we faced much uncertainty in formulating macro policies. In the end, we decided not to set a numerical target for GDP growth, and with long and hard thinking, we set the target of new urban jobs at no less than nine million. Employment is the foundation of people’s well-being and development. It is also a source of wealth. We said we would strive for a positive growth of China’s economy for the whole year, out of the belief that if we could add no less than nine million new urban jobs, we would be able to achieve positive growth of the economy. Employment helps to generate income, boost consumption and drive economic growth.
Last year, under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, and thanks to joint efforts made by all sides, the market entities showed great resilience, and our people faced the difficulty in solidarity.
For the whole year, we added 11.86 million new urban jobs. The economy expanded by 2.3 percent. There was continued increase in household income. All these performances were better than expectations.
This year, we still face mounting pressure in employment. Some 14 million new entrants will join the labor force, including another record high of college graduates totaling 9.09 million. We also need to meet the employment needs of ex-service members, and some 270 million to 280 million rural migrant workers.
We will continue to give top priority to employment in the macro policies this year. Employment will remain at the top of the “six priorities” where stability is the key and the “six areas” where protections are needed. The pro-job policies introduced last year will be kept in place, and beefed up in some respects. Other policies should also be conducive to job creation. We believe that steady economic rebound will boost employment, and expansion in employment will in turn promote steady and sound growth of the economy.
We have set the projected target of no less than 11 million new urban jobs for this year, and we hope to overfulfill it in actual implementation. In generating jobs, we will continue to enable the market to play a principal role. In other words, we will continue to promote employment by supporting market entities. We will stabilize and expand employment, and at the same time, open up new channels for job creation.
During the pandemic last year, we saw some new changes in the means of employment. New drivers of growth that developed rapidly in China in recent years, including online shopping and express delivery services, showed a strong momentum of expansion despite COVID-19 impacts. They helped to boost employment and the growth of some traditional industries. We will continue to encourage the creation of stable jobs, and also promote flexible employment, which is now rapidly developing in China. About 200 million people are involved in flexible employment. Some people work several jobs, which is quite tough. The government will provide them with subsidies for social security, and introduce institutionalized methods to give them basic protections in terms of occupational injury to bolster the healthy and stable growth of flexible employment.
As for the elderly population you referred to in your question, there are some 260 million elderly people in China. Industries related to services for elderly people are big sunrise industries as there is diverse demand among the senior population.
The Chinese market is multi-tiered with diverse consumer demand. This big, open market represents great opportunities for products, services and investments from foreign companies.
Our country has a 1.4 billion population. The labor force remains our most abundant resource. Our people are hardworking and resilient. Whenever there is an opportunity, they will seize it and put their talent to good use. A good life hinges on diligence. With diligence, one has no fear for shortages. I believe with the hard work of our people, we will be able to achieve common prosperity over time.
Agencia EFE: The United States has blamed China for the so-called lack of transparency to the WHO mission in Wuhan last month. The chief of the team said the Chinese counterparts shared a lot of details with them but he said they would like to have access to more raw data about earlier cases of illness similar to COVID-19 between October 2019 and December 2019. Will China provide these data and be willing to receive another mission visit?
Premier Li: COVID-19 is a global public health contingency. Like other countries, China also hopes that we can get to the bottom of where the virus came from as early as possible. This will help us to stem the spread of the virus and make covid containment more effective. Tracing the origins of the virus is a complex science matter. It calls for closer cooperation among countries and continuous research. The Chinese side has acted in a fact-based manner and with an open, transparent and cooperative approach. China has maintained communication with the WHO and provided support to the WHO mission during its research work in China. We will continue to work with the WHO in taking work on this front forward.
The virus is still spreading in many parts of the world. In addition to tracing its origins, our pressing task is to enhance COVID-19 response, including vaccine rollout. COVID-19 is a common enemy of humankind. We hope that all countries will come together to defeat this virus, for no country can do it alone. We have strong faith in the ability of humanity to prevail over the disease eventually. I also hope that next year we will be able to have the press conference face-to-face.