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'No conference by Premiere until...': China abruptly ends annual presser culture in a surprise announcement

The spokesperson said that the congress would increase opportunities for journalists to ask questions of government ministers and other officials, as well as with the nearly 3,000 delegates to the congress but did not give a reason for Qiang's conference.

Ajeet Kumar Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 Beijing Published on: March 04, 2024 12:07 IST
China Premier Li Qiang and President Xi Jinping
Image Source : AP China Premier Li Qiang (L) and President Xi Jinping (R)

Beijing: The Chinese government said Monday it is eliminating an annual news conference by the premier that was one of the only times a top Chinese leader took questions from the news media. Lou Qinjian, the spokesperson for the National People’s Congress, said on the eve of the opening of the annual session of the legislature that Premier Li Qiang would not hold a news conference at the conclusion of the meeting, as has been customary.

Lou said that the congress would increase opportunities for journalists to ask questions of government ministers and other officials, as well as with the nearly 3,000 delegates to the congress. “If there are no special circumstances, the premier’s press conference will not be held in the next few years,” he said, without further explanation.

The weeklong meeting of the largely ceremonial congress, which opens Tuesday, is being closely watched for any indications of what steps the government will take to boost the struggling economy. Li, the premier, will present an annual report at the opening that is expected to include the government’s economic growth target for 2024.

Defence and Foreign Ministers are likely to be ousted again

China’s government ministers typically hold their posts for five years, but Qin Gang was dismissed as foreign minister last year after only a few months on the job. To this day, the government has not said what happened to him and why. His predecessor, Wang Yi, has been brought back as foreign minister while simultaneously holding the more senior position of the Communist Party’s top official on foreign affairs.

The presumption has been that Wang’s appointment was temporary until a permanent replacement could be named. Analysts say that could happen during the National People’s Congress, but there’s no guarantee it will. “Wang Yi enjoys Xi’s trust and currently dominates diplomatic policymaking below the Xi level, so it would not be a shock if Wang remained foreign minister for a while longer,” Thomas said.

The person who has gotten the most attention as a possible successor is Liu Jianchao, a Communist Party official who is a former Foreign Ministry spokesperson and ambassador to the Philippines and Indonesia. He has made several overseas trips in recent months including to Africa, Europe, Australia and the US, increasing speculation that he is the leading candidate.

Other names that have been floated include Ma Zhaoxu, the executive vice foreign minister. Wu said it likely depends on whom Xi and Wang trust.

(With inputs from agency)

Also Read: Chinese ex-foreign minister Qin Gang resigns after missing from public view since last year

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