China’s New Premier Puts Focus on Manufacturing on First Trip

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(Bloomberg) -- Chinese Premier Li Qiang used his first trip out of Beijing since getting the job to reiterate Xi Jinping’s call to boost innovation and self-reliance, underscoring the priority the Asian nation places on countering US efforts to curb its tech ambitions.

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Li, who became premier on March 11, made the call while visiting the central province of Hunan on Tuesday and Wednesday. He visited companies including electric car maker BYD Co. and Lens Technology Co., an Apple Inc. supplier.

He also hosted a forum on advanced manufacturing that a number of top executives including Lei Jun, CEO of Xiaomi Corp., attended, state broadcaster China Central Television reported. It was unclear what city the event was held in.

Li urged the executives to “promote high-level technological independence and self-reliance, and push forward the transformation and upgrading of traditional manufacturing industries.” Companies should “accelerate the transformation and shift of Chinese manufacturing into Chinese creations and Chinese products into Chinese brands,” he added.

Read: China’s Xi Urges Focus on Security Amid Simmering US Tensions

Earlier this month, Xi used a major speech to rally China’s private sector to help overcome “containment” by the US and other countries. Those comments offered rare direct criticism of the US, China’s biggest trading partner, which has rallied Japan and the Netherlands to restrict exports of some advanced chipmaking machinery to China, largely to curb military expansion.

Li also used his first comments as premier to say China will protect the rights of entrepreneurs and continue to support private businesses.

The Chinese government hopes an economic recovery can help the nation get over three years of damage caused by harsh Covid Zero rules. Last week, China reported a rebound in consumer spending, industrial output and investment in January and February, but warned of rising unemployment and a continued real estate investment slump.

Dropping foreign demand is prompting Beijing to emphasize expanding domestic demand, said Raymond Yeung, chief economist for Greater China at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., so “the manufacturing sector has to adapt to better meet the needs of domestic customers and demand from countries having good relations with China.”

Yeung added that “given the tensions with the US, China has to improve home-grown science and technology innovation to ensure production chain security.”

Read: China Reports Economy Rebound But Warns of Risks to Recovery

Separately, several cities around China are taking steps to roll out regulations aimed at boosting the private sector. Guangzhou proposed that regulators encourage banks to lend more to private companies.

The southern city also asked police and courts to act prudently when “restricting the personal freedoms” of legal representatives or managers of private firms. Businesspeople in China complain that routine disputes with rivals can result in authorities getting involved, even to the degree that they’re detained.

Also, Shanghai plans to launch a campaign to boost investment in the financial hub later this month, the Shanghai Securities News reported Thursday, citing local officials.

The goal is to attract funding for eight major building projects, including a railway passenger terminal. The city will also announce initiatives ranging from industrial parks to biomedical plants, the newspaper said, citing a briefing by officials.

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