Chinese leader Xi Jinping hit the United States with unusually blunt comments as he called on the country’s private businesses to “fight” alongside the Communist Party at a time of mounting challenges at home and abroad.
“[In the past five years,] Western countries led by the United States have comprehensively contained and suppressed us, which has posed unprecedented severe challenges to our development,” Xi told a group of government advisers representing private companies at a meeting. annual legislative in Beijing on Monday.
China’s top leader generally avoids directly attacking the United States in public, even though relations between Beijing and Washington have deteriorated sharply in recent years. He usually refers only to “Western countries” or “certain developed countries” when making critical comments about Washington.
Addressing trade commissioners at a high-level political advisory body, Xi voiced concern over the external and economic challenges facing the country, while urging the Chinese people to “unite”.
“In the coming period, the risks and challenges we face will only increase and become more severe. Only when everyone is thinking in one place, working hard in one place… can we continue to win new battles,” he said, according to a statement carried by the official Xinhua news agency. “We are in the same boat.”
Ties between the world’s two largest economies are at their worst in decades. Tensions rose further in February after a suspected Chinese spy balloon floated over North America and was later shot down by US warplanes.
Xi spoke at the annual meetings of China’s parliament and top political advisory body, collectively known as the “two sessions”.
The meetings, which bring together more than 5,000 delegates, will confirm Xi’s third term as president and the biggest shake-up in Chinese economic leadership in a decade.
A crucial cabinet reform will also be unveiled at the meetings, which is expected to further strengthen Xi’s direct control over China’s government and economic system.
During his speech on Monday, Xi sought to reassure the private sector – which has been rattled by his state policies in recent years – by calling on it to play a role in boosting growth, jobs and economic growth. ‘technological innovation.
“The private sector is an important force for our party to govern for the long term,” Xi said. “We always consider private companies and private contractors as people on our own side.”
His exhortation comes after China’s economy posted its second-worst annual growth rate in nearly half a century.
Business confidence has plummeted following an unprecedented regulatory crackdown on the private sector and growing uncertainty about China’s future.
On Tuesday, customs data showed Chinese exports fell nearly 7% in the January-February period, extending a decline from previous months as global demand weakened. Imports fell by 10.2%.
Chinese exports to the United States fell by 15%. But imports increased by about 3%. The United States remains China’s main trading partner.
Aligning China’s independent private businesses with party priorities could help accelerate the nation’s fragile recovery, while extending the control of Xi, the country’s most powerful leader in decades.
The private sector, despite its size dwarfed by the public sector, contributes more than 60% of China’s GDP and more than 80% of employment, according to official statistics.
Xi urged the government to support private companies and remove institutional barriers that prevent them from entering certain industries.
It is also necessary to protect the property rights of private companies and entrepreneurs and to treat public companies and private companies on an equal footing, in order to “enhance market expectations and confidence”, he said. he declares.
“[We should] let private companies play an important role in stabilizing employment and increasing [government] income,” he said.
In particular, the government should help internet companies “shine” on the world stage, create jobs and expand consumption, he said.
However, Xi also stressed the need to strengthen political and ideological control over private industry, saying entrepreneurs should be guided to “correctly understand” the Communist Party’s principles and policies, including its call for “prosperity”. common”.
Private entrepreneurs should be “patriotic” and actively participate in social welfare and charitable enterprises, he said.
“[You should be] rich in love,” he added.
On Sunday, outgoing Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced the lowest GDP target in decades, indicating the government is aware of the difficult task ahead of economic recovery.