“In the coming period, the risks and challenges that we’re facing will only become more and more numerous and grim,” Mr. Xi said, while urging officials to remain “calm and focused” while also braced for “struggle.”
To tackle these challenges, Mr. Xi has emphasized the need for China to wean itself off its reliance on Western-held technologies and expertise, and to fortify itself against risks to food and energy security. He has populated the government’s top ranks with his loyalists and allies to carry out his agenda.
Mr. Xi’s No. 2, the incoming Chinese premier, Li Qiang, is expected to focus on growth. The party’s sweeping “zero Covid” policy of lockdowns and quarantines resulted in growth of 3 percent last year, lower than expected. Unemployment among urban youth rose to nearly 20 percent in the worst months of 2022.
“I’m optimistic that as soon as the National People’s Congress is over, and Li Qiang has fully taken over, then China is going to roll out measures to boost the confidence of the private sector,” said Wang Xiangwei, a former chief editor of The South China Morning Post, a newspaper in Hong Kong.
“If you want to revive the Chinese economy, you have to rely on the private sector,” Mr. Wang, who now writes a newsletter on Chinese politics, said in an interview. “However, the private sector has been hit so hard that mere words to soothe their concerns is not enough.”
Mr. Xi and his top lieutenants have not yet offered specific responses to the deep concerns in China’s private business community about the increasingly intrusive role of the government and restrictions on private investment. The government has been requiring companies to transfer a small stake and a seat on the board to the government and ordering companies to nurture and consult closely with Communist Party cells in their work forces. Even as China tries to restore investor confidence, many of those policies may stay.
“Because they’re now facing what they take to be an insecure environment at home and abroad, they’re really taking steps to concentrate power, not to let go of it,” Kou Chien-Wen, a professor at National Chengchi University in Taipei who specializes in Chinese politics, said of China’s leaders.
Amy Chang Chien contributed reporting, and Li You contributed research.