China Transforms Communication Strategy: Premier’s Annual Press Conference Comes to an End

Last Updated on March 5, 2024 7:34 am

In a surprising move that marks a departure from a three-decade-long tradition, China has decided to discontinue the premier’s annual press conference, a significant event that provided global insight into the nation’s economic and policy direction. The decision, announced on Monday, has sparked speculation among observers, with some interpreting it as a shift towards increased centralization and a more inward-focused approach.

Since 1993, China’s premiers have traditionally engaged with domestic and foreign journalists, offering perspectives on the challenges facing the world’s second-largest economy. However, National People’s Congress spokesman Lou Qinjian announced that Premier Li Qiang will not hold a press conference this year and will refrain from doing so for the remainder of the parliamentary term until 2027, except under special circumstances.

This move comes as a departure from the trend seen in the 1990s and 2000s when China actively sought to clarify its political and policy positions to attract foreign investment and boost international trade. Chen Daoyin, an independent political commentator and former Shanghai University of Political Science and Law professor, suggested that the cancellation signals a shift from an era of opening up to one of isolation.

According to Lou, the cancellation is justified by an increased focus on providing briefings on diplomacy, the economy, and people’s livelihoods by various government ministers throughout the week-long parliamentary meeting. The premier’s press conference, once a highlight of the annual gathering, served as a platform for addressing wide-ranging questions and providing a big-picture perspective on economic policy.

While the premier’s press conference has been a forum for communicating government stances, some premiers have occasionally deviated from the Communist Party line. For instance, Li Keqiang, Li Qiang’s predecessor, revealed in 2020 that 600 million Chinese earned less than $140 per month, challenging the official narrative of eradicating rural poverty.

Wen-Ti Sung, a political scientist at the Australian National University, sees the decision to end the premier’s press conference as part of Beijing’s broader strategy to control the narrative about China’s state. Sung notes that this move doesn’t necessarily indicate distrust between President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang, but rather reflects a dynamic where Xi shapes policies, and Li faithfully implements them.

In this evolving communication strategy, willingly stepping away from the limelight is seen as an act of loyalty and adherence to the established policy direction. The discontinuation of the premier’s annual press conference marks a significant shift in how China chooses to convey its economic and policy positions to the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *