Special Report

Shutdown: The Coronavirus

China’s two session political gathering sets priority for COVID-19 recovery

China’s annual Parliamentary Meetings- “Two Sessions”- took place in Beijing on May 18. Photo Credit: Unsplash zibik

After a two-month delay, China’s annual parliamentary sessions of the National People’s Congress (NPC),  was held on May 18.  And it sent a signal that the Covid-19 pandemic is under control in China. 

Called the two-sessions, it is the most important political gathering for China officials each year. This year’s sessions prioritized recovery plans from the brunt of the economic impact of Covid-19. Beijing also sought the chance to pass a Hong Kong security bill bypassing Hong Kong’s legislation, in order to end the anti-government protests that have rocked the semi-autonomous city for months. 


China has abandoned the annual growth target for the first time as the world still grapples with the pandemic and a global economic fallout begins. The coronavirus lockdown has slashed China with a historic 6.8% GDP drop in the first quarter in 2020, marking the first contraction since 1992. 

 “The global epidemic situation and economic and trade situation are very uncertain, and China’s development is facing some unpredictable factors,” Chinese premier Li Keqiang said at the start of the NPC.

 As central banks in the US and Europe went all in with buying government debts and cutting interest rates to save the market, China did not follow. Yi Gang, China’s Central Bank (PBOC) governor has warned against excessive stimulus measures.

 “The normal monetary policy should be kept as long as possible,” he said. 

 Yet the PBOC has already eased its monetary stance, including injecting liquidity into the market through its daily reverse repo purchase program and cutting its benchmark lending rate. 

 By de-emphasizing the growth target, the premier prioritized more flexible measures on local level to spur up employment. Premier Li announced a target to create 9 million urban jobs in the coming year, down from last year’s target of 11 million. 

 Li Xunlei, the chief economist of Zhongtai Securities, estimated a 20.5% unemployment rate, much higher than the official data of 6% released by the National Bureau of Statistics in April. Li and his team said in a report that the large number of self-employers in China, especially in the service industry, were frontline victims of the pandemic lockdown. 

  China’s Economic Policies in Comparison

 The New Infrastructure 

In 2009, China announced a 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) fiscal stimulus package, with the largest portion in infrastructure to lift its economy from the global financial crisis. Ten years after, facing another global recession, the central authorities saw the pandemic  as “great timing” to develop “the new infrastructure,” which encompasses 5G, ultra-high-voltage power facilities, inter-city transport, new energy vehicle charging stations, big data centers, artificial intelligence and industrial internet.

 The idea, first mentioned at a central economic conference in late 2018, gained more attention from both the public and the private sector amid the coronavirus lockdown. Beijing suggested that it would leverage the pandemic to catalyze the development of data infrastructure and upgrade industrial production.

 Li Zuojun, a senior official at the Development Research Center of the State Council told National Business Daily that traditional infrastructure investment sparked a short-term stimulus, but lacked long-term return on investment. China’s economy, bearing downturn pressure, needs a new engine and more effective stimulus measures.

 China’s leading tech firms have embraced Beijing’s calls for digital infrastructure. Li Yanhong, CEO of Baidu, the largest search engine in China, also a CPPCC member, proposed a plan about smart urban transportation with live big data during the two sessions. Tech giant, Tencent, pledged to invest 500 billion yuan ($69.9 billion) in areas from cloud computing to artificial intelligence. 

 Two days after the end of China’s two sessions and the reinforcement on the new infrastructure plan, President Trump issued an executive order suspending some Chinese graduate students’ entry into the country, especially ones working in the sciences. Although not directly tied to China’s ambitious 5G and AI plans, the ban cited the threats of illegal acquisition of intellectual property and potential national security posed by Chinese students. 

 Hong Kong 

The national parliament passed the highly controversial Hong Kong Security bill, a sweeping security legislation that broadens Beijing’s power over Hong Kong. The law prohibits any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion, and foreign entities from conducting political activities. 

 The bill came after Hong Kongers’ months-long protests against a plan to allow extradition to mainland China. Beijing feared that the former British Colony, under the “one country, two systems,” had spoiled freedom and exposed itself and the central government to external forces. 

 Hong Kong, as an semi-autonomous region from China, is a commercial and trade hub in East Asia. Although the Hong Kong government spokesperson said “the vast majority of law-abiding Hong Kong residents, including overseas investors, have nothing to fear,” Hong Kong residents did not share the confidence. They rushed for the emigration gates and investing in overseas properties, soon after the controversial plan unveiled, South China Morning Post reported. 

 The anti-government protest roiled Hong Kong again after the security law was passed, despite the risk of the pandemic has not settled. Trump announced that Hong Kong would no longer receive its special status as it lost autonomy. Meanwhile, American officials are discussing ways to punish China for the drastic move. 

 Yet, the outbreak of George Floyd protests across the US handed Beijing a new weapon to compare the unrest in the US and Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrations and accuse the US of hypocrisy. 

 Hua Chunying, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, tweeted “I can’t breathe,” the last words of George Floyd, with a screenshot of a post of her American counterpart that called for the Communist Party’s accountability on Hong Kong, implying the US government’s double standards.




Other Stories in Special Report: Shutdown: The Coronavirus

Life returns to the East Village

Quincy Walter May 5, 2021

Reopening for Ramadan

Hassan Abbas May 4, 2021

And the band played on

Xavier Bartaburu May 2, 2021

Queens residents mourn at Covid vigil

Annie Burky May 2, 2021

Floating for Free: COVID and the Staten Island Ferry

Trish Rooney May 2, 2021

COVID-19 has left many Black and Hispanic landlords in serious debt

Norah Hogan April 24, 2021

Village East movie theater reopens to the public

Inga Parkel April 13, 2021

Chinese adoptions halted by COVID

Inga Parkel March 24, 2021

Remote is the new workplace normal

Courtney Guarino March 24, 2021

One year of COVID-19 in New York City

Michelle Diaz March 16, 2021

COVID long haulers deal with lingering symptoms and doubt

Kaity Assaf March 5, 2021

Pandemic Weddings

Chuyan Jiang March 2, 2021

Pandemic fatigue 101

Chuyan Jiang February 28, 2021

Yankee Stadium becomes COVID-19 vaccine site for Bronx residents only

Michelle Diaz February 24, 2021

The queer community rallies behind their sacred spaces closed because of COVID-19

Inga Parkel February 23, 2021

Street vendors struggle as New Yorkers and tourists stay home

Norah Hogan February 13, 2021

Keeping the faith in COVID-19

Courtney Guarino February 3, 2021

Little Italy’s restaurants need indoor dining to survive pandemic

Michelle Diaz February 2, 2021

Stray pets find homes and love during pandemic

Inga Parkel February 1, 2021

No Actors, But the Show Goes On

James Pothen December 5, 2020

New York City, a place of refuge 

Edith Rousselot December 4, 2020

Commuting in a pandemic world

Michelle Diaz December 3, 2020

Battling food insecurities during a pandemic

Courtney Guarino December 3, 2020


Justin McGown December 3, 2020

Honk!: Cars earn a special spot in 2020

Luana Harumi December 3, 2020

Working out looks very different during a pandemic

Chuyan Jiang December 2, 2020

One kitchen’s transformation in the age of isolation

Isabel Beer December 2, 2020

Nursing homes are filled with sadness and loss during pandemic shut down

Inga Parkel December 1, 2020

The show goes on

Norah Hogan December 1, 2020

Loyal members help keep independent cinemas afloat

Courtney Guarino December 1, 2020

Musicians deal with the reality of no live shows as covid takes center stage

Paola Michelle Ortiz December 1, 2020

 Black Friday’s Aftermath

Sughnen Yongo November 30, 2020

The Spirit of Little Haiti

Savannah Daniels October 14, 2020

Small business owners hope for future relief

Courtney Guarino October 2, 2020

Brooklyn Book Festival held virtually

Chuyan Jiang September 28, 2020

NYC Restaurant owners worry about maintaining business during winter 

Isabel Beer September 27, 2020

The pandemic is causing mental health struggles for many Latinos

Paola Michelle Ortiz September 24, 2020

Politically divided family can agree on one thing, rallies are bad during a pandemic

Michelle Diaz September 23, 2020

New Yorkers are vulnerable to mental issues due to pandemic

Sughnen Yongo September 23, 2020

Healthcare professionals struggle with Trump’s decisions during pandemic

Tori Luecking September 23, 2020

Some Americans Say “Not So Fast” on Operation Warp Speed

James Pothen September 23, 2020

Trump voters unfazed by morality of Trump’s Covid response

Norah Hogan September 22, 2020

Trump rallies continue, despite the rising Covid-19 death toll

Isabel Beer September 22, 2020

Latinos weigh in on President Trump’s management of the pandemic

Paola Michelle Ortiz September 21, 2020

Fast track vaccine causes fear

Kaity Assaf September 21, 2020

It’s business as usual at McSorley’s Old Ale House

Tori Luecking September 20, 2020

Trump defiance to hold indoor rallies amidst COVID-19 sparks polarized responses 

Courtney Guarino September 20, 2020

NYC Cafes and restaurants try and survive the pandemic

Isabel Beer September 19, 2020

A typical afternoon at Shade Bar NYC

Kaity Assaf September 19, 2020

West Village staple, Caffe Reggio, remains open for outdoor dining in the wake of coronavirus restrictions 

Norah Hogan September 19, 2020