China’s leaders are about to set their lowest economic growth goal since at least 1990. How can they get away with it? Premier Li Keqiang is expected to announce this year’s target for growth in gross domestic product of about 7 percent when he gives his “work report”—China’s version of the State of the Union—to launch the National People’s Congress on Thursday morning.
China’s Communist Party has long maintained a pact of sorts with the people. The leadership has guaranteed rapid economic growth to boost business and lift incomes. In turn, the people shouldn’t demand the right to choose their civil servants or openly criticize the party.
That tacit deal has started to fray in recent years, with workers, farmers, and urbanites becoming increasingly outspoken about grievances over unpaid wages, land grabs, and rampant pollution. Meanwhile, economic growth was 7.4 percent last year—its slowest pace since 1990 and well below the almost 10 percent average annual growth that marked the first 25 years following the launch of reform and the opening of China in 1978.
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