SCIO briefing on efforts to coordinate COVID-19 control with economic, social development

The State Council Information Office held a press conference on Monday morning in Beijing to introduce the efforts being made by various government departments to coordinate the prevention and control of the COVID-19 epidemic with continued economic and social development. February 25, 2020

Hu Kaihong:

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Welcome to this press conference. General Secretary Xi Jinping and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) have recently issued instructions on the work to coordinate the prevention and control of the COVID-19 epidemic with economic and social development. Today, we have invited Mr. Cong Liang, a member of the Leading Party Members' Group of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and secretary general of NDRC; Mr. Tian Yulong, a member of the Leading Party Members' Group of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and chief engineer of MIIT; Mr. Ou Wenhan, assistant minister of the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and a member of the Leading Party Members' Group of MOF; Mr. You Jun, vice minister of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MOHRSS) and a member of the Leading Party Members' Group of MOHRSS; Mr. Ren Hongbin, assistant minister of the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) and a member of the Leading Party Members' Group of MOC and Mr. Chen Yulu, a member of the Party Committee of People's Bank of China (PBOC) and deputy governor of PBOC. They will introduce the measures being taken to implement the instructions given by General Secretary Xi Jinping and the CPC Central Committee. They will also answer your questions. First, I will give the floor to Mr. Cong.

Cong Liang:

Ladies and gentlemen, friends from the media, good morning. The impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on China's economic and social development is currently a major concern for all sectors of society. The CPC Central Committee and the State Council have attached great importance to the work on promoting economic and social development amid the outbreak. General Secretary Xi Jinping leads and arranges the related work personally. He has called many meetings, heard reports and delivered important speeches. General Secretary Xi has emphasized that the work of coordinating epidemic prevention and control with economic and social development is of vital importance. He has demanded great efforts to achieve this year's economic and social development goals and tasks, and secure finishing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects, meeting the goal of eliminating poverty and completing the 13th Five-Year Plan. Premier Li Keqiang has chaired State Council executive meetings, stressing coordination in advancing economic and social development along with unremitting epidemic control efforts so as to ensure normal running of society and the economy. The Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council has also held many meetings to discuss and make arrangements for relevant work.

While continuing anti-epidemic efforts, the NDRC, in cooperation with other departments, is offering guidance for local authorities to establish economic and social order based on the epidemic situation, promote orderly resumption of work and production according to the categories of the various enterprises involved, and ensure key supplies are provided on time. The latest statistics show that the resumption of work and production is well underway, with large enterprises being ahead of small and medium-sized ones in this regard. Compared to downstream industries and labor-intensive enterprises, upstream participants and capital and technology-intensive companies report faster resumption of production. More and more industrial enterprises above designated size are gradually resuming production. More than 90% of such enterprises in Zhejiang province, for example, have restarted production, and the figure is above 70% in Jiangsu, Shandong, Fujian, Liaoning, Guangdong and Jiangxi provinces. In terms of key industries, 67.4% of steelmaking enterprises have restored production, and those in non-ferrous metal business have reached 86.3%. In particular, enterprises in key sectors that directly concern national stability and our people's wellbeing are accelerating their drive for resumption of normal production, and some are already operating in high gear around the clock. The production capability of face masks has been expanded to 110% of the normal level. More than 70% of the grain processing capacity for emergency response has been restored. A total of 76% of firms in the coal sector have restored production. Rail loadings have reached around 95% of the normal level before the Spring Festival holiday. Civil aviation, ports and waterway network are also operating as normal.

The epidemic did inflict a big impact on China's economic performance, undermining consumption and hitting the services sector during the Spring Festival holiday, along with delaying the resumption of work and production thereafter. Some enterprises, especially small and medium-sized ones, encountered great difficulties in their production and operation. In response, local authorities and various central departments have acted based on the decisions made by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, rolling out strong and effective measures to mitigate the impact. These measures include cutting the energy consumption costs of enterprises; promoting special re-lending programs totaling 300 billion yuan (about $43 billion) to provide low-interest loans to key manufacturers of supplies needed for epidemic control; provisionally reducing or waiving employers' social insurance and medical insurance contributions and deferring their payments to the housing provident fund; as well as reducing value-added tax and income tax for some industries and individuals.

Here I must stress that the short-term impact brought about by COVID-19 on our economy and society is controllable and will not change the fundamentals of China's long-term economic development. With gradual progress made in epidemic prevention and control work, and effective policies to offset repercussions, we have the confidence, ability, and conditions to minimize the impact of the epidemic and sustain steady economic and social development.

Next, in accordance with the decisions and deployments made by the Party Central Committee and the State Council, the National Development and Reform Commission will work with other relevant departments to strengthen the prevention and control of the epidemic, as well as to promote the orderly resumption of production based on different areas and epidemic situations. To safeguard the orderly flow of people, materials, and capital, we need to focus on the following tasks: 

First, we will step up macro policy adjustments. We will fully implement all the deployments made at the Central Economic Work Conference, pursuing a more proactive fiscal policy as well as a prudent monetary policy that retained an appropriate degree of flexibility. We will also consider adopting targeted measures to cut taxes and fees to help micro, small, and medium enterprises pull through the crisis. We will actively expand domestic demands, spur consumption recovery, and unleash potential. We will also give full play to the key role of effective investment and provide stronger support to major sectors, including labor, land use, and funding, to accelerate the construction of ongoing and newly started projects. We will coordinate all work to maintain stability in six key areas, namely, employment, finance, foreign trade, foreign investment, domestic investment, and expectation. 

Second, we will work to ensure that emergency policies and measures that have already been issued are fully implemented. We will step up support and assistance to key industries, as well as small and medium enterprises, by fully implementing policies on reducing taxes and fees, providing financial services, offering rent cuts and exemptions, and providing subsidies to enterprises that maintain stable employee numbers. We will coordinate all work to ensure stable production and supply of daily necessities to meet people's basic needs. We will also ensure timely agriculture work in the spring, resolutely accomplish the task of alleviating poverty, step up efforts to keep employment stable with all-round measures, and strive to meet the needs of daily protective supplies for enterprises that have already resumed production or prepare to do so. 

Third, we will work hard to address inadequacies in our work and shore up points of weakness. The prevention and control of the epidemic have exposed some inadequacies in our work, which should be improved with more significant and more precise efforts after we draw on the experience and lessons. All these will provide new opportunities for us to boost domestic demand and promote economic growth, help create and develop new areas of growth, and, more importantly, lay a sound foundation for China's economic and social progress. Meanwhile, we will continue to monitor the economic performance closely, as well as to formulate and adopt relevant policies, measures, and contingency plans based on the changing situation to ensure a stable economic and social performance.  

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