Xi Says Social Stability Key in Balancing China Economy, Virus

  • He calls on government to adhere ‘unwaveringly’ to Covid Zero
  • President says it’s important citizens ‘feel reassured’

Chinese President Xi Jinping underscored the need to maintain social stability while balancing the twin goals of snuffing out Covid cases and bolstering the economy, as strict lockdowns spark sporadic unrest and online outrage.

During a visit to the southwestern province of Sichuan, Xi called on his government again to adhere “unwaveringly” to its Covid Zero strategy, while at the same time striking a balance with the needs of the economy and social stability, the Xinhua news agency reported Thursday.

“Work to maintain social stability must be carried out well in all aspects so that people feel reassured and social stability is secured,” Xi said. The Chinese leader also highlighted key areas including employment, social security and aid for people living in difficulties.

The remarks largely echoed sentiments since mid-March, when Xi first urged Chinese officials to reduce the economic impact of the country’s measures to combat the outbreak. But the emphasis on ensuring stability indicated growing anxiety over the economic fallout of China’s strict Covid measures, particularly as Xi prepares for a Communist Party leadership reshuffle later this year at which he’s expected to secure a precedent-breaking third term as president.

China’s economy is widely expected to miss its growth target of about 5.5% this year because of the virus curbs and a slump in the property market. A two-month lockdown of financial hub Shanghai caused food shortages and limited access to critical medical needs, fueling social discontent and sparking clashes between residents and police.

The Shanghai government announced Thursday it will lock down seven districts this weekend to mass test millions of people, risking more disruption for residents and businesses that have just emerged from a grueling shutdown.

Leaders of the country of 1.4 billion people have always been vigilant against the threat of food shortages fanning inflation and endangering social stability, with rising global commodity prices and geopolitical tensions only deepening that concern. Premier Li Keqiang told local officials in late May they must ensure summer harvesting of crops and food supplies aren’t affected by the government’s efforts to contain Covid.

Xi shared those concerns, calling on farmers and agro-technicians to maintain the country’s food security during his tour of a rice field in Sichuan.

“We are confident and capable of retaining the rice bowl in our own hands,” he said.

Xi also highlighted the plight of youth unemployment, which has soared to a record this year and is set to worsen in coming weeks as 10.76 million graduates hit the job market. During a trip to a university in Yibin city, Xi urged students to lower their expectations on jobs and “be practical” when assessing their qualifications and social demand.

He also told universities, companies and government officials to provide more help for graduates from poorer families and those who’ve been looking for a job for a long time.

At a visit to a company making video projectors, Xi reiterated a call to push for technology innovation and foster advanced companies in different sectors.

“We should cultivate more ‘hidden champions’ and form clusters of technology innovation,” he said.

Source: Bloomberg

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