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

Nihon Keizai Shimbun:

China set its economic growth target at the Central Economic Work Conference held last December. Will there be any change of the target due to the epidemic? Thank you.

Cong Liang:

Thank you for your question. This year marks the end of the 13th Five-Year Plan and China is set to achieve its goal of completing the building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Based on that, China set this year's economic and social development goals and mapped out major tasks at the Central Economic Work Conference held last year, including: implementing the new development philosophy, stepping up efforts in the "three tough battles" against major risks, poverty and pollution, improving people's livelihood, creating better use of fiscal and monetary policies, boosting high-quality development and deepening the reform of the economic system. Despite the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, China still has plenty of ways to complete the tasks and reach the goals of economic and social development drawn up at the conference. 

First, the epidemic won't change the long-term sound development trend of the national economy. The impact of the epidemic on the world's second largest economy is temporary and short lived. Consumption, supposed to release its potential after the epidemic, has merely been postponed, not lost. For instance, growth of retail sales dived to 4.3% in May 2003, when the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) affected the country. However, two months later, the growth jumped to 9.8%. To take another example, industries like online shopping, online education, remote office work, online entertainment and smart manufacturing, have bucked the negative impact of the current epidemic to attain substantial growth. Those altogether reflect the great resilience and potential of China's economy.

Second, emergency policies and measures have been adopted to counteract the impact of the epidemic. In accordance with the decisions of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, authorities in different regions and at different levels have mapped out a series of measures to safeguard the stable performance of national economy, namely, stabilizing employment, the financial sector, foreign trade, domestic and foreign investment, and market expectations. In recent days, we have rolled out more effective policies to offset the impact of the epidemic, such as promoting the orderly resumption of work and production, cutting taxes and fees, expanding financial services, reducing or exempting rents, and providing job subsidies. We believe that those policies and measures will alleviate the economic impact, especially the difficulties that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are facing.

Third, normal order of production and operation is being restored. Under the premise of containing the epidemic, we adhere to the principles of scientific prevention, adopting targeted measures based on different levels of risks from low to high, and taking a differentiated approach to promote resumption of work and production. We have made efforts to address the congestion problem. For areas of low risk, traffic restrictions will be lifted completely. We will promote the resumption of work and production in the upstream and downstream sectors of the industrial chain in a coordinated manner. Simultaneous resumption of operation will be realized in key sectors such as medical supplies, daily necessities, and logistics, so as to ensure normal operation of the industrial chain. We will fulfill the requirement of "implementing policies before companies run into any difficulties." Difficulties facing businesses will be addressed, especially those in key regions, including labor, capital, and raw material supplies. We will step up efforts to support key industries and SMEs. Under the premise of preventing and controlling the epidemic, we will make sure enterprises can still operate, and the economy will continue to run smoothly. 

Fourth, we have enough development potential and policy reserves. As I mentioned, weaknesses were exposed in many areas during this outbreak, for example, social governance, public health facilities, emergency response and material reserve. But these are also the potential for future investment and space for future development. We will strive to make up for any shortcomings and improve the quality and efficiency of economic development. Meanwhile, we will step up economic monitoring, forecasting, early warning, and policy research reserves. Relevant policies will be introduced at appropriate time. Macro-control efforts will be strengthened. In these ways, we can maintain a stable, healthy, and sustainable economic and social development.

I'm confident that, as long as we unite, implement the arrangements of the Central Economic Work Conference, expand domestic effective demand, and introduce the right policy, we can attain this year's economic and social development targets. Thank you.

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