China Canceling Its Press Conference Is Like a Company Canceling an Earnings Call: Analyst

Estimated read time 3 min read
  • China has canceled a closely watched annual press conference with Premier Li Qiang.
  • The cancellation came amid concerns about China’s economy.
  • Analysts suggest Xi Jinping is attempting to control the narrative of China’s economic health.

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China is the second-largest economy in the world, but few people have insight into what really makes it tick.

But the press gets a once-a-year opportunity to do so after China’s annual parliamentary session, when the Chinese premier — the country’s No. 2 figure — takes questions from the press, both domestic and international.

Not this year.

This year’s highly anticipated news conference with Premier Li Qiang has been canceled, as Lou Qinjian, the spokesperson for China’s National People’s Congress, said on Monday.

It’s not a good look amid China’s economic troubles.

Rick Waters, the managing director for China at Eurasia Group, drew a corporate parallel for the move, saying, “canceling your quarterly earnings calls isn’t a formula to improve market perceptions.”

“The reality is that market information on the world’s second-biggest economy is worsening,” Waters told GZERO Media, a subsidiary of the political research and consulting firm.

After all, investors are looking to the event for cues on China’s economy, which has been struggling to stage a convincing post-pandemic recovery.

Instead of a sustained post-COVID boom, China’s economy is beset with major problems including a property crisis, deflationary pressure, and a demographic crisis. China’s markets have also lost trillions of dollars since hitting their peaks in 2021.

Even so, China on Tuesday announced a growth target of about 5% for the year, befuddling economists who say it’s ambitious and would be challenging without stimulus.

Even Li acknowledged that hitting the targets wouldn’t be easy.

But since Li’s Q&A with the press has been canceled, journalists won’t be able to question the motivation behind the growth target or how China plans to achieve it.

Lou, the spokesperson, said Li’s press conference was canceled as there would be more briefings with ministers and other officials at this year’s meeting.

But some analysts have said the cancellation is a sign that China’s leader, Xi Jinping, doesn’t want anyone questioning his regime.

“The decision suggests that Xi Jinping is further attempting to consolidate his political authority and, at a time of growing external concern over the state of China’s economy, shape the narrative that Beijing puts forward about its internal health,” Ali Wyne, a senior researcher at the International Crisis Group, told Business Insider’s Tom Porter on Tuesday.

Correction: March 7, 2024 — An earlier version of this story misattributed the quote analyzing Xi Jinping’s reasons for canceling the press conference. It was from Ali Wyne, not Jonathan Ward.