Premier Li Qiang takes a stroll into fantasy land

‘Fabricated’ numbers appear to be the hallmark of his maiden government report in the Great Hall of the People

Truth is the first casualty in autocracies such as China. Fabrication replaces the facts, which are conveniently buried under Communist Party slogans of “whole-process people’s democracy.” 

There is nothing remotely democratic about the National People’s Congress in Beijing this week. A rubber-stamp parliament of nearly 3,000 political extras in the Xi Jinping Show, co-starring Premier Li Qiang.   

It was Li who delivered his maiden government report on Tuesday to a packed audience in the Great Hall of the People. 

After more than 60 minutes at the podium, it became unclear whether he was playing in a comedy or a tragedy when he announced a GDP growth target of around 5% this year for the world’s second-largest economy.

“A lot of economists think the numbers are completely fabricated. The idea of 5.2% or 5.5% growth is [most] likely wrong. It’s more like 1% or 2%,” Andrew Collier, the managing director of Orient Capital Research, told the BBC.

Plot lines:

The foundation of our economy is still not solid.

China’s Premier Li Qiang

Delve deeper: Apart from crippling youth unemployment, stagnating wages are threatening stability in China. Local government debt has also ballooned to around $11 trillion after the real estate sector went from boom to bust.

Between the lines: Consumer spending has continued to shrink while China’s stock market mayhem has only added to the sense of gloom. Up to $6 trillion has been wiped off the value of shares in the past three years. 

What they are saying: “The foundation for the recovery of our economy is still not solid, with insufficient demand, overcapacity, weak expectations, and many lingering risks,” Premier Li pointed out in his address to Congress.

China Factor comment: What an understatement from President Xi’s acolyte. At times, he looked as steady as China’s crumbling property market.