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China policy round-up: March parliamentary meetings face delay, premier Li warns against Covid-19 impact on economy, US applies restrictions on Chinese media

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By Addison Gong, Rebecca Feng
21 Feb 2020

In this round-up, China is set for an unprecedented postponement of its March “Two Session” meetings this year, premier Li Keqiang cautioned against the potential economic fallout from the novel coronavirus outbreak, and the US designated five Chinese media outlets as foreign missions.


Senior government officials have proposed to postpone the annual “Two Session” meeting this year due to the coronavirus outbreak. The proposal will be voted on by senior government officials on February 24.

The Two Sessions meeting is an annual gathering of the National People's Congress, the country’s legislature body and the highest organ of state power, and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the country’s top political advisory body. The two-week-long meeting usually begins in March and draws around 5,000 delegates from around the country.

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During Wednesday’s weekly plenary session of the State Council, premier Li Keqiang cautioned against potential economic fallout because of the coronavirus. Li talked about promoting the resumption of farming activities and urged companies to keep their staff in their jobs.

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China has granted tariff exemptions on 696 US goods, according to official statements from the Ministry of Finance on Tuesday. The goods eligible for tariff exemptions include agricultural products such as beef, pork and seafood.

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The US Department of State designated five Chinese media outlets as “foreign missions” on Tuesday. These five media outlets are Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network, China Radio International, China Daily and Hai Tian Development. Hai Tian Development is the distributor of People’s Daily in the US.

Under the Foreign Missions Act, a foreign mission is substantially owned or effectively controlled by a foreign government, according to the US State Department. The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly said that the new restrictions were “long overdue”.

As a result of the designation, these media organisations will have to register the locations of properties they own or rent in the US and get permission to lease or purchase additional properties.

In separate news, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang announced during a Wednesday press conference the decision to cancel the reporting licence for three Wall Street Journal reporters based in the Mainland, effective immediately.

The Wall Street Journal identified the three journalists as Josh Chin, Beijing deputy bureau chief, and reporters Chao Deng and Philip Wen. The Journal said these three were ordered to leave China within five days.

The decision came after the Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece on February 3 titled “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia”. The piece greatly hurt the feelings of Chinese people, Geng said.

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China protested against the US’s decision to impose sanctions on six Chinese companies for violating the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act, in an online press conference held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs earlier this week.

The companies are Baoding Shimaotong Enterprises Services Co, Dandong Zhensheng Trade Co, Gaobeidian Kaituo Precise Instrument Co, Shenzhen Tojoin Communications Technology Co, Shenzhen Xiangu High-Tech Co and Wuhan Sanjiang Import and Export Co. The list, together with two Chinese individuals and names of Russian and Turkish companies, were first published on Federal Register, the daily journal of the US government, last Friday.

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Hong Kong’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate climbed by 0.1 percentage points during the November 2019 to January 2020 period, from 3.3% in the October to December quarter, data from the Census and Statistics Department showed. The 3.4% jobless rate was the highest in more than three years, according to Law Chi-kwong, the Secretary for Labour and Welfare.

The year-on-year decline in total employment widened noticeably to 1.8%, the largest since the third quarter of 2003, Law said in a press release. He expects the labour market to be subject to even more pressure in the near term, due to the disruptions caused by the threat of the novel coronavirus infection in economic activities, in particular in sectors like consumption and tourism.


By Addison Gong, Rebecca Feng
21 Feb 2020