Listen: Chinese premier: 'We must be fully prepared for a tough struggle'
"My panel this week are three people who've been following events in China very closely for years in our studio in Beijing. I have Safiya Yan she's the Beijing correspondent of the telegraph newspaper. And she specializes in China's economy. I also have Ian Johnson there with her. He's a Pulitzer prize winning journalist writing out of Beijing and also down the line from Newark, New Jersey, I'm joined by Sarah, sue and communist with the state university of New York as Vincent mentioned, the National People's Congress. China's annual parliamentary meeting is in session, sometimes it can be quite celebrate Tori, a chance for communist leaders to Pat themselves on the back. But this year amid worries about the economy the mood was a bit different. Listen to some of the language from the big speech delivered by the Premier League. Gene yet. And should you engine in the past year? China has faced a complex and severe internal and external situation that has rarely been seen for years. With the economy burying the new downward pressure. But under the staunch leadership of the communist party with president Xi Jinping at the helm, the Chinese people of all ethnic groups forced to head vigorously and fulfilled. Major targets in economic and social development. It also made major progress insecure in a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. So fear, you were at the NPC, and you heard the premier speech, what was the atmosphere like there? Well, like, you would expect any other year. There's been a lot of propaganda and a lot of political theater going on as the NBC kicked off Premier Li Chong speech to take a more muted tone, and it's really marked difference from the sort of environment. We were in at this time last year in China this time last year, president Xi Jinping had scrapped term limits. He looks every bit the unstoppable strongman, but you fast forward a year to now China's really started to kind of roll back rhetoric. It's swagger what it wants to show and the tone that Premier Li had a speech on Tuesday, definitely was kind of walking things back a little bit and just trying to at least, you know, sort of point towards the fact that there are some challenges ahead on the road and trying to manage expectations a little bit more, Ian you travel widely around China. What have you been witnessing in the past year? What's the economic outlook outside of Beijing will one struck? By the fact, that a lot of the things that have driven China's growth over the past decade things like urbanization and big infrastructure projects that this really they've hit a point of diminishing returns, the country's not urbanizing as quickly as before. There aren't as many people moving from the countryside into cities and the big infrastructure projects are still being built, but they're making less and less economic sense. I was I was just in a western city. She and and they're they're building a big high speed rail out to ching high, which is this province on the Tibetan plateau. And this engineer. I was talking to such me. I don't know if this makes any sense at all to build a high-speed railway just isn't the population density is a huge amount of money, we're spending. But these things keep getting built. And I think there's a sense that it just makes less and less sense. And it's true that the government's talking a good game about this. They're trying to make the structural changes. But actually they've been saying this. Now for years, and there is scant evidence that it's really happening yet. All right, Sarah from your vantage point in the United States. What are using their concerns about economic challenges in China that could refer to in his speech. Well, I think that there are a couple of different and opposing views. One of them can be found within members of the Trump administration who view China as a threat and Trump has been pretty interested in this U S, China trade war, which has been going on and has gloated that the US has more power more economic power than China does and can out last China in a trade war. So there's that perspective that is triumphant regarding China's declining growth, and then there's another aspect for firms like apple and Starbucks that are interested in China's growing consumption. China's economic slowdown is a serious barrier to their expansion in that nation and also for people who are interested in selling real estate in certain areas of the country. They see a slowdown in China's foreign direct investment and overseas real estate investment that is very concerning for them. Okay. So we have worries mounting inside China and also Sarah, you mentioned that that bubbling U S China trade war for now. Let's take a closer look at the challenges facing the economy, and how the party is trying to deal with them. It's been said that China has a GDP fetish. And as I mentioned earlier in my conversation with Vincent neither there's a fixation on GDP growth, and what the targeted growth number is, historically. Why is this such a big deal in China in comparison to other major economies so fear? Can you take a stab at that? Well, I so long we've seen double digit growth in the Chinese economy. The slowdown. We're seeing now was always on the docket. And the big question the entire world has asked for by longtime is how fast I slowdown will occur. Because if there's a really big ramp a really fast ramp down China is the world's second largest economy. China's sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold. So that's why all eyes have been on China for so long and this idea GDP targets it's quite measurable for local governments here something that they can try to strive for. It's a number that they can go for and it's a way for a country in this state of the state of development that China is to try to track their own progress, but that's been problematic for a lot of different ways. Because these numbers don't really capture a lot of the nuances that are really happening. And so this shift there is a difference in the pace of growth that we've seen. But again, as I said, it doesn't capture certain nuances that are now starting to happen in the economy as Beijing tries to move from this old growth model of low end, cheap manufacturing, cheap exports towards something that's a little bit more advanced manufacturing towards services higher. Sump shen. Can we trust the numbers coming out of Beijing? Well, we don't have to trust the numbers. But I think we can say that there are fairly consistent and it was fast. And now it's slowing and it's about half or even less than half than it was in the gogo years in the two thousands. So you see this across the board, and this leads to all kinds of social tensions inside China because in the past there was also unequal growth, but all boats for rising, so people were willing to give the government or by because at least things were getting better. And people could always feel that at least their children's feature would be better. And now, it's not so sure a housing prices are unaffordable, it's really hard for young people to buy a place even a second tier or third tier city. It's harder and harder to find work because you have to be really well qualified for this new economy China wants to build so the challenges are really are not less than in the past. And I think that it's it's something it's it's just a series of headaches for the government. So if we look at how Chinese people are dealing with the economic challenges on a day to day basis, maybe they don't mind so much that GDP figures or GDP targets aren't completely accurate, but Sarah, what do you think of outsiders who were who are looking at China? And it's progress does it matter that they might be questioning the veracity of the numbers coming out of Beijing. Of course. So people are concerned, I'm outside of China, and even within China that a lot of the growth is created by this artificial stimulus that it's government expansion of credit as well as fiscal stimulus that is responsible for economic growth now. But I just want to go back for a moment. I noted that people in China may not be concerned with the GDP figure. I think that people are concerned about growth itself and there. Our own circumstances. And I think that some people are concerned about whether they're going to maintain their employment in the future. Now, the situation is becoming increasingly dire in terms of the job market. And I think that you know, this is something that people are really keeping an eye on."