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President Xi Jinping Addresses Economic Concerns, Taiwan Issue in New Year’s Eve Address 

In a rare admission, President Xi Jinping acknowledged economic difficulties facing China during his New Year’s Eve address. This marked the first time since 2013 that Xi mentioned economic challenges in his annual message and comes as China grapples with issues such as weak demand, rising unemployment, and declining business confidence. 

Acknowledging Economic Headwinds 

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During his televised speech, Xi recognized the challenges faced by Chinese businesses and job seekers. He stated that “some enterprises had a tough time” and “some people had difficulty finding jobs and meeting basic needs.” These admissions were widely circulated by state media, signaling the severity of the economic situation. 

Efforts to Strengthen Economic Recovery 

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Xi emphasized the importance of consolidating and strengthening the momentum of economic recovery.  

He said “Some enterprises had a tough time. Some people had difficulty finding jobs and meeting basic needs.. All these remain at the forefront of my mind. We will consolidate and strengthen the momentum of economic recovery.” 

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Decline in Factory Activity 

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Hours before Xi’s address, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released its Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) survey for December, indicating a decline in factory activity. The official manufacturing PMI dropped to 49 last month, down from 49.4 in November, marking the third consecutive month of contraction. 

Persistent Manufacturing Downturn 

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China’s manufacturing sector experienced weakness throughout 2023, with the official manufacturing PMI contracting for extended periods. After a brief pickup in early 2023, it contracted for five months until September, before dipping below 50 again. 

Economic Challenges Faced by China 

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Throughout the year, China has grappled with several economic problems, including a prolonged property downturn, record-high youth unemployment, weak prices, and financial stress at the local government level. 

Also Read: Records Reveal Frequent Email Exchanges Between Joe Biden and Eric Schwerin During Ukraine Diplomacy 

Government’s Measures to Revive Growth 

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Beijing has taken various measures to stimulate economic growth and employment, including fiscal and monetary policies. However, these efforts have been accompanied by a more statist approach to the economy, raising concerns among entrepreneurs and international investors. 

Control Over Private Sector 

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The Chinese government’s increasing control over economic and social affairs, along with its crackdown on businesses in the name of national security, has led to anxiety within the private sector. 

Alipay and Jack Ma’s Role 

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Recently, the People’s Bank of China approved the removal of controlling shareholders at Alipay, a prominent digital payment platform operated by Jack Ma’s Ant Group. This development signifies Ma’s formal withdrawal from the company, as Beijing has intensified its scrutiny of major tech companies. 

Read More: Resignations Increase in Response to Florida’s Financial Disclosure Law 

Xi’s Stance on Taiwan 

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President Xi Jinping reiterated China’s stance on Taiwan, emphasizing reunification in his New Year’s speech. This comes ahead of Taiwan’s presidential elections on January 13 and reaffirms Beijing’s longstanding claim over the self-ruled island. 

Taiwan’s Presidential Election 

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The upcoming elections in Taiwan have heightened tensions, with Vice President Lai Ching-te, seen as unfavorable by Beijing, considered a frontrunner. Xi’s comments assert China’s commitment to unifying Taiwan, even if it means using force. 

China’s Ambition for Taiwan 

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Xi’s pursuit of Taiwan reunification aligns with his broader goal of positioning China as a global power. Despite never having controlled Taiwan, the Communist Party considers it part of its territory. 

Read Next: Japan Boosts Naval Defense with Modernized Aircraft Carrier 

Taipei’s Concerns 

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Taiwan has accused China of running influence operations leading up to the election, particularly targeting candidates viewed unfavorably by Beijing. This highlights the ongoing tension in the region. 

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