No Annual Press Conference with the Premier, No Disturbance

China ended a three-decade tradition on Monday by announcing that Premier Li Qiang’s press conference following the conclusion of this year’s annual parliamentary meeting would no longer take place. For the duration of the Chinese parliament’s remaining term, which ends in 2027, Li will not hold the yearly press conferences, according to National People’s Congress (NPC) spokesman Lou Qinjian. Since its inception in 1993, Chinese premiers have often taken advantage of the yearly occasion to address a broad range of inquiries from both domestic and international journalists. In an effort to draw in international investment and increase commerce, China actively worked to clarify its politics and policies during the 1990s and 2000s, when it was opening its economy to the rest of the globe.

 

Ian Johnson, a former foreign journalist in China from 1994 to 2001 and current senior fellow for Chinese studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, stated that foreign journalists were free to ask questions during the press conferences at that time. Subsequently, “it transformed from a possible information source to a meaningless propaganda exercise,” he claimed. By the end of the decade, it was no longer useful for obtaining information. It’s all prearranged.” While some observers of China don’t think the cancelation will have any impact, others argue that President Xi Jinping’s growing isolation of China from the outside world is an indication of the premier’s waning power.

 

VOA was informed by Yaqiu Wang, the research director for Freedom House’s China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan division, that the conference “has always been just a staged performance, so canceling it won’t mean anything different in terms of the substance.” However, it does indicate that the Chinese government is uninterested in even feigning openness and freedom of the press, according to Wang. What it demonstrates is the CCP’s ongoing tightening of its grip over the nation and the ongoing reversal of the’reform and opening up’ period. It also signifies the premier’s role continuing to decline in relation to President Xi. While the conference may not have much significance in and of itself, its continuation is.”

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