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China's economy of 'great concern' as annual political meeting to kick off

By AFP - Mar 04,2024 - Last updated at Mar 04,2024

A handout photo released by the BBC, taken and received on Sunday, shows Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt appearing on the BBC's 'Sunday Morning' political television show with journalist Laura Kuenssberg (AFP photo)

BEIJING — China's annual political conclave kicks off in Beijing on Monday, with officials saying the flagging economy and youth unemployment are of "great concern" as they lay out plans for the coming year.

Armed police and public security workers are ubiquitous on Beijing streets as thousands of delegates arrive for the beginning of the annual "Two Sessions" gatherings.

Proceedings kick off Monday at 3:00pm (07:00 GMT) with the opening ceremony of China's People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) — attended by President Xi Jinping and other party top brass — which will last until next Sunday.

At a press conference, CPPCC spokesperson Liu Jieyi said that "economic topics are of great concern" to the body's over two thousand members.

So, too, he said Sunday, was "the employment of young people, especially fresh graduates", with youth unemployment officially at around 15 per cent at the end of 2023, after the statistics bureau adjusted its calculation methods.

Monday's CPPCC is relatively low-stakes compared to the near-simultaneous gathering of the country's legislature, the National People's Congress, which begins on Tuesday. The meetings are not expected to see the unveiling of big-ticket bailouts that experts say are needed to inject growth back into China's economy, which last year posted some of its lowest growth in decades.

Beijing is instead set to double down on national security, with analysts expecting it to increase its military budget, second only to the United States.

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