Chinese Premier Li Qiang (C, rear) meets the press after the closing of the first session of the 14th National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, March 13, 2023. Vice premiers Ding Xuexiang, He Lifeng, Zhang Guoqing and Liu Guozhong attended the press conference. (Xinhua/Li Xin)

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China's new premier on Monday voiced full confidence in the country's economic outlook despite challenges and pledged to further expand opening up regardless of external changes.

Citing the many factors of uncertainty and instability facing the world economy, Premier Li Qiang told reporters that stabilizing economic growth is a challenging task not just for China but for all countries in the world this year.

It is "no easy task and requires redoubled efforts" to achieve the economic growth target of around 5 percent in 2023 on a high base of economic output and amid new challenges, Li told a press conference held after the conclusion of the first session of the 14th National People's Congress, the national legislature.

However, the premier said China's development is supported by multiple advantages, including a vast market, a complete industrial system, abundant human resources, solid foundation for development, and most importantly, notable institutional strength.

"I believe the Chinese economy will brave the wind and waves and sail toward a brighter future. I'm full of confidence in that," he said, noting that the Chinese economy has been stabilizing and picking up in the past two months.

PURSUE PROGRESS WHILE ENSURING STABILITY

China will keep to the general principles of prioritizing stability and pursuing progress while ensuring stability, and push for a turnaround in the country's overall economic performance this year, Li told reporters.

"On stability, the emphasis will be placed on ensuring stable growth, employment and prices, and the key to seeking progress lies in making new advancement in high-quality development," he said.

China will make good use of policy combinations in the areas of leveraging macro policies, expanding demand, advancing reform and innovation, and preventing and defusing risks, according to the premier.

He also vowed to create a level playing field for all kinds of business entities and further support private enterprises in growing and thriving.

"The private sector will enjoy a better environment and broader space for development," he said, stressing that China's commitment to the development of the private sector is unequivocal and steadfast.

Meanwhile, the premier dismissed concerns over China's demographic change, saying the country's "demographic dividend" has not disappeared and that its "talent dividend" is in the making.

"When assessing demographic dividend, we shall not just look at the sheer size of the population but also look at the scale of high-caliber workforce," he told reporters, saying that more than 240 million people have received higher education in China, and the average length of education received by newcomers into the workforce has increased to 14 years.

PEOPLE-CENTERED DEVELOPMENT

Li said the ultimate aim of the work of the Party and the government is to improve the well-being of the people, vowing efforts in various sectors concerning the people's livelihood from employment to rural development.

With 11.58 million college graduates expected to enter the workforce this year, China will continue to pursue an employment-first strategy and increase support in terms of employment services and technical training, the premier said.

Li said rural revitalization should be advanced across the board, and that different localities should develop the countryside based on their local conditions.

The country will further increase its grain production capacity by focusing on arable land and seeds, Li said, noting that China's food security is "well guaranteed on the whole."

"The government will make sure that the rice bowls of 1.4 billion Chinese people will always be firmly held in our own hands," he told the press.

The premier also pledged efforts to strengthen government building by further transforming government functions and improving its efficiency and conduct.

He encouraged officials at all levels to engage more with local communities to learn about what the people need and seek their opinions on the work of the government.

"They need to learn from the people and help the people at the grassroots solve problems," he said.

DOOR TO OPEN WIDER

This year marks the 45th anniversary of China's reform and opening up, which has not only developed China but also influenced the world, Li said.

He said China will further expand opening up this year in alignment with high-standard international trade rules, opening its door wider to the world with better business environment and services.

"Opening up is a basic state policy of China, and no matter how the external situation evolves, China will stick to pursuing this policy," the premier told the press, saying that China welcomes investors from all over the world.

China has remained a favored destination for global investment, Li said, citing statistics that foreign direct investment into the Chinese mainland, in actual use, reached a record high of more than 189 billion U.S. dollars in 2022.

Commenting on China-U.S. relations, the premier refuted the hype in the United States on "decoupling" with China, saying that the two countries can and must cooperate and will achieve a lot by working together.

"Encirclement and suppression are in no one's interests," he said, noting that the two countries are closely intertwined economically and have both benefited from the other side's development.

PROMOTE CROSS-STRAIT EXCHANGES, SUPPORT HK, MACAO

On cross-Strait cooperation and communication, Li said the early restoration of normal exchanges and regular cooperation between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait is a shared aspiration and requires joint efforts of both sides.

The Chinese mainland will continue to promote economic and cultural exchanges and cooperation across the Strait on the basis of the one-China principle and the 1992 Consensus, Li noted, expressing the hope that more Taiwan compatriots and businesses will come to the mainland.

"We hope they are not just willing to come to the mainland, but also able to integrate into the local communities and achieve better development," Li said.

The premier also voiced confidence in the prospects of Hong Kong and Macao, saying that the two regions will enjoy an even brighter future as the central government will give them full support in integrating into the country's overall development, growing their economy, improving people's livelihood, and further building their global competitiveness.

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