China’s economy is set to grow faster in the second quarter, Premier Li Qiang says

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Chinese Premier Li Qiang attends a meeting on June 26, 2023, with the Director-General of the World Trade Organization ahead of the World Economic Forum New Champions meeting in Tianjin, China.

Pool | Getty Images News | Getty Images

BEIJING — Chinese Premier Li Qiang said Tuesday his country was still on track to reach its annual growth target of around 5%.

He said growth in the second quarter was expected to be faster than it was in the first.

China’s economy grew by 4.5% in the first quarter, better than expected. However, subsequent data have pointed to slower growth. Economic data for May missed analysts’ expectations.

“From what we see this year, China’s economy shows a clear momentum of rebound and improvement,” Li said, via a livestream of an official English translation.

Li was speaking at the opening plenary of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions.

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The conference will run from Tuesday to Thursday in Tianjin, China. This year’s gathering marks the first time since the pandemic that the World Economic Forum’s annual China conference is being held in person.

Li became premier in March, following a twice-a-decade leadership reshuffle in October that packed the core team with loyalists of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China announced its growth target of about 5% for the year in March. At the time, Li told reporters that China’s economy is picking up and that some international organizations had raised their forecasts for full-year growth.

On Tuesday, the Chinese premier repeated the line about forecast upgrades, again without mentioning specific institutions or dates.

Economists’ forecasts for China’s gross domestic product this year have fluctuated.

Several investment banks — including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, UBS and Bank of America — have trimmed their full-year China GDP forecasts in the last few weeks. Earlier this year, many firms had raised their expectations for 2023 growth.

In June, the World Bank raised its forecast for China’s growth this year to 5.6%, up from 4.3% previously.

The International Monetary Fund in April raised its forecast for China’s GDP to 5.2%, up from 4.4% previously.

On de-risking and security

Li on Tuesday also emphasized the need for global cooperation on trade and economic growth.

“As you know, some in the West are hyping up the so-called phraseologies of reducing dependencies and de-risking,” he said. “These two concepts, I would say, are false propositions.”

“As economic globalization has already made the world economy an integral whole where everyone’s interests are closely entwined, countries are interdependent, interconnected with each other, on their economies,” Li said. “We can enable each other’s success.”

China is a major, if not the top, trading partner of many countries in the world.

During his speech Tuesday, Li highlighted “security” as crucial in the context of the need to “cherish peace and stability.”

“In China’s official lingo, we compare security to the number of one, and other things, the many zeroes that come after it,” he said.

“In an American sense, without the number one, all the zeroes following it would come to nothing,” Li said, via the official English translation.

Beijing has increasingly emphasized the need to ensure national security. The U.S. has also cited the term in recent actions such as restricting China’s ability to access high-end semiconductors.

Earlier this year, Liu He, then a vice premier, spoke at the World Economic Forum’s annual event in Davos, Switzerland.

In that speech, Liu said “high-quality economic development must always be [China’s] goal,” and that the country would focus more on attracting foreign investment.

— CNBC’s Jihye Lee contributed to this report.

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