Chinese Officials at a Loss Under Contradicting Directives from Top Leaders

The disagreement between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang has become more obvious than ever. With the Chinese economy currently in turmoil and at huge risk, Xi insists on pushing his “zero-COVID” policy at all costs, while Li calls for stabilizing the economy at all costs.On May 25, Li convened a national televised and telephone conference on the economy, which was attended by 100,000 local Chinese communist officials from across the country, with the theme of “stabilizing the economy at a macroscopic level and stabilizing employment,” according to Chinese media. Li admitted at the conference that the current economic situation is worse than in 2020 when the pandemic broke out: “In March and April, indicators such as employment, industrial production, electricity consumption, freight transport, and others have fallen significantly. In some aspects, the difficulties [we face] now, to a certain extent, are even greater than when the economy was hurt by the severe epidemic in 2020.” Li also stated that China’s economy was off track, and the focus of the conference was to “push the economy back to the normal track.” However, he did not mention a bit of Xi’s “zero-COVID” policy in his speech. Experts Provide Different Views The above-mentioned implicitly critical remarks are regarded by many overseas China experts as an open criticism and challenge to Xi, which would indicate that Xi has lost his real power and may be replaced by Li. Chen Pokong, an expert on China’s politics and economics, said on his channel on May 26 that Li’s hosting a national economic conference of 100,000 people showed that he had begun to dominate this work, and Xi had become a transitional figure who had lost power. Also present at the conference were Han Zheng, vice premier of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) of China; and Vice Premiers Sun Chunlan, Hu Chunhua, and Liu He, whose rankings come after Han. But most notably, Minister of Defense Wei Fenghe and Minister of Public Security Zhao Kezhi also attended the conference. These two figures attracted attention from outside analysts as they each represented the military and the public security system, the CCP’s“barrel of guns” and “the power of pens.” In Chen Pokong’s analysis, this means that the Chinese military and the public security system have chosen to side with Li Keqiang. However, Zhang Tianliang, an expert on China’s current affairs, told The Epoch Times that to the contrary, the nationwide teleconference attended by 100,000 local officials simply revealed that Li’s position was fragile. Li had to communicate with local officials directly precisely because he could not effectively make his instructions come across, Zhang believed. In a May 26 report by Bloomberg, eight senior local officials who spoke to the outlet on the condition of anonymity said that the contradicting instructions from Xi and Li are “leading to paralysis within a nation normally hailed for speedy implementation of diktats from above.” China’s Economy Faces Great Uncertainty China’s draconian pandemic control measures have plunged the country’s economy into a big chaos. In the first four months of this year, the profits of industries and enterprises above a designated size fell by 8.5 percent year-on-year, of which the profits of the manufacturing sector fell by 22.4 percent, and the urban unemployment rate in China rose to 6.1 percent, according to the CCP’s National Bureau of Statistics. Given the lack of credibility of the CCP’s official figures, the actual unemployment rate could be much higher. The overall performance of China’s top 100 real estate companies fell by more than 50 percent, and the total retail sales of consumer goods decreased by 11.1 percent from the same period last year. Latest data also shows that China’s exports have shown a shrinking trend, and foreign capital has flown out in large numbers. The total value of China’s exports in April was $273.62 billion, down 0.9 percent month-on-month, according to Chinese customs data. The Institute of International Finance (IIF) recently reported that, including bonds and stocks, foreign capital outflows from China reached a record high of $17.5 billion in March this year. Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times. Follow Justin Zhang has been analyzing and writing articles on China issues since 2012. He can be contacted at [email protected]

Chinese Officials at a Loss Under Contradicting Directives from Top Leaders

The disagreement between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang has become more obvious than ever. With the Chinese economy currently in turmoil and at huge risk, Xi insists on pushing his “zero-COVID” policy at all costs, while Li calls for stabilizing the economy at all costs.

On May 25, Li convened a national televised and telephone conference on the economy, which was attended by 100,000 local Chinese communist officials from across the country, with the theme of “stabilizing the economy at a macroscopic level and stabilizing employment,” according to Chinese media.

Li admitted at the conference that the current economic situation is worse than in 2020 when the pandemic broke out: “In March and April, indicators such as employment, industrial production, electricity consumption, freight transport, and others have fallen significantly. In some aspects, the difficulties [we face] now, to a certain extent, are even greater than when the economy was hurt by the severe epidemic in 2020.”

Li also stated that China’s economy was off track, and the focus of the conference was to “push the economy back to the normal track.” However, he did not mention a bit of Xi’s “zero-COVID” policy in his speech.

Experts Provide Different Views

The above-mentioned implicitly critical remarks are regarded by many overseas China experts as an open criticism and challenge to Xi, which would indicate that Xi has lost his real power and may be replaced by Li.

Chen Pokong, an expert on China’s politics and economics, said on his channel on May 26 that Li’s hosting a national economic conference of 100,000 people showed that he had begun to dominate this work, and Xi had become a transitional figure who had lost power.

Also present at the conference were Han Zheng, vice premier of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) of China; and Vice Premiers Sun Chunlan, Hu Chunhua, and Liu He, whose rankings come after Han. But most notably, Minister of Defense Wei Fenghe and Minister of Public Security Zhao Kezhi also attended the conference. These two figures attracted attention from outside analysts as they each represented the military and the public security system, the CCP’s“barrel of guns” and “the power of pens.”

In Chen Pokong’s analysis, this means that the Chinese military and the public security system have chosen to side with Li Keqiang.

However, Zhang Tianliang, an expert on China’s current affairs, told The Epoch Times that to the contrary, the nationwide teleconference attended by 100,000 local officials simply revealed that Li’s position was fragile. Li had to communicate with local officials directly precisely because he could not effectively make his instructions come across, Zhang believed.

In a May 26 report by Bloomberg, eight senior local officials who spoke to the outlet on the condition of anonymity said that the contradicting instructions from Xi and Li are “leading to paralysis within a nation normally hailed for speedy implementation of diktats from above.”

China’s Economy Faces Great Uncertainty

China’s draconian pandemic control measures have plunged the country’s economy into a big chaos.

In the first four months of this year, the profits of industries and enterprises above a designated size fell by 8.5 percent year-on-year, of which the profits of the manufacturing sector fell by 22.4 percent, and the urban unemployment rate in China rose to 6.1 percent, according to the CCP’s National Bureau of Statistics. Given the lack of credibility of the CCP’s official figures, the actual unemployment rate could be much higher.

The overall performance of China’s top 100 real estate companies fell by more than 50 percent, and the total retail sales of consumer goods decreased by 11.1 percent from the same period last year.

Latest data also shows that China’s exports have shown a shrinking trend, and foreign capital has flown out in large numbers.

The total value of China’s exports in April was $273.62 billion, down 0.9 percent month-on-month, according to Chinese customs data.

The Institute of International Finance (IIF) recently reported that, including bonds and stocks, foreign capital outflows from China reached a record high of $17.5 billion in March this year.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Justin Zhang has been analyzing and writing articles on China issues since 2012. He can be contacted at [email protected]