EXPLAINER: What's happened so far at China's annual congress

Sunday, March 7, 2021 | The Associated Press

Wang Yi
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks during a remote video press conference held on the sidelines of the annual meeting of China's National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, Sunday, March 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

BEIJING (AP) — Midway through its annual session, China’s ceremonial parliament is focusing on boosting the economy, building self-reliance in technology and further squeezing room for political opposition in Hong Kong. The weeklong meeting of the National People’s Congress, which rubber stamps policies approved by the Communist Party leadership, provides a window into government priorities.

SETTING AN ACHEIVABLE GROWTH TARGET

The party set a growth target of “over 6%”, as the world’s second-largest economy shrugs off the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, it departed from practice and didn't set a target because of pandemic-related uncertainty. The target was lower than the 7% to 8% that forecasters expected and seen by some as signaling a shift from quantity to quality growth, including efforts to expand the green economy.

ACCELERATING LEADING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY

Premier Li Keqiang vowed Friday to “work faster” to develop tech capabilities seen as a path to prosperity, strategic autonomy and international influence. The party is focused on becoming a global competitor in telecoms, electric cars and other profitable areas. Its tactics have inflamed trade tensions with the U.S. and and Europe and also raised security concerns. China has poured massive computing and human resources into artificial intelligence, including sometimes controversial technologies such as facial recognition.

CLOSING DOWN DISSENT IN HONG KONG

The congress has been given draft legislation that would give an Election Committee dominated by businesspeople and other pro-Beijing figures a role in choosing the members of the Hong Kong legislature. Wang Chen, a deputy chairman of the congress, said the committee would choose a “relatively large” share of the Legislative Council and have the right to vet all candidates. He did not provide specifics. A spokesman for the congress said that Beijing wants “patriots ruling Hong Kong,” fueling fears opposition voices will be shut out of the political process.

BEEFING UP THE MILITARY

The government announced a 6.8% rise in military spending to 1.4 trillion yuan ($217 billion), continuing a tradition of roughly tracking the economic growth target. Analysts say actual military spending is up to 40% more than the reported figure, the world’s second-highest after the United States. Recent years have seen a massive expansion of China’s naval capabilities as it seeks to assert its claims in the South China Sea. A deadly clash with India last year underscored the potential for conflict over their disputed border, while America's prominent role in Asian security and its support for Taiwan, the self-governing democracy that China claims, raise the threat of conflict with the U.S.

NO ROOM FOR COMPROMISE ON TAIWAN

At an annual news conference on the sidelines of the session, Foreign Minister Wang Yi demanded the Biden administration reverse former President Donald Trump’s “dangerous practice” of showing support for Taiwan. China's claim to Taiwan, which split with the mainland in 1949, is an “insurmountable red line,” he said. Separately, Wu Qian, a spokesperson for the Defense Ministry and a delegate to the congress, said that China would not “renounce the use of force and reserve the right to take whatever measures are necessary.” The U.S. State Department expressed concern about Chinese attempts to intimidate Taiwan and other neighbors and said, “Our support for Taiwan is rock-solid."

PURSUING GREEN INITIATIVES

The party pledged to reduce carbon emissions per unit of economic output by 18% over the next five years, in line with its goal for the previous five-year period. Environmentalists say China needs to do more. President Xi Jinping, the leader of the Communist Party, pledged last year to ensure that the country would be carbon neutral by 2060. Achieving that will require huge investments in clean energy for an economy that gets 60% of its power from coal. Chinese leaders are also pushing to reduce waste, especially of food, and increase recycling to handle the mountains of paper and plastic produced by a burgeoning consumer economy.

WHAT'S NEXT

The annual session, which has been reduced from two weeks to one because of the pandemic, finishes on Thursday. Li will give the premier's annual news conference after the congress closes.



7 Semiconductor Stocks Set to Gain From the Chip Shortage

Who knew that something so tiny could create such a big problem? However, that’s the case with the semiconductor industry. Chip manufacturers are facing supply chain disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Any weekend mechanic knows that even traditional internal combustion cars are heavily reliant on electronics. In fact, electronic parts and components account for 40% of a new, internal combustion vehicle. That’s more than doubled since 2000.

However as it turns out, some manufacturers may have overestimated how soon consumers would be ready for an “all-electric” future. And that meant that they didn’t forecast how much demand there would be for the kind of chips needed to do the mundane, but vital tasks of steering, braking, and even powering windows up and down.

Part of the problem is that U.S. businesses are heavily reliant on countries like China and Taiwan for their semiconductors. In fact, only about 12.5% of semiconductor manufacturing is done in the United States.

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View the "7 Semiconductor Stocks Set to Gain From the Chip Shortage".


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