According to a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report, China’s two top leaders appeared to have different voices in their last week’s speeches.
The speeches have come in an attempt to allay foreign executives who have grown increasingly dissatisfied with Beijing’s strict virus control measures.
In a video speech on May 18, Chinese President Xi Jinping talked about the global economic challenges caused by the new Omicron variant. However, he made little mention of China’s own economic downturn.
Meanwhile, Premier Li Keqiang focused on China’s own problems at a Beijing-based offline symposium held a day later on May 19.
According to the meeting’s attendees at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, Li made promises to senior representatives of U.S., European, and Asian multinational companies.
He stated that Beijing commits to promoting economic development and curbing repeated outbreaks.
As for vaccination, Xi talked about the need to strengthen global cooperation in vaccine development. However, the president did not publicly stress the importance of vaccinating the Chinese population.
By contrast, Premier Li supported expanding the vaccination coverage. His remarks were in response to an executive’s suggestion that China should vaccinate more people, especially the elderly.
Xi also did not imply abandoning the zero-covid policy regarding the epidemic control measures, nor did he answer inquiries from foreign executives.
Meanwhile, Li showed attention to foreign business representatives who talked about how China’s Covid-19 policies have made China increasingly isolated. He took notes and asked attendees to tell their governments that China is listening to their concerns.
However, according to multiple participants, Li did not even once refer to Xi’s dynamic zero policy during his hour-and-a-half meeting.
The Premier took off his mask right after entering the Diaoyutai conference room.
At the end of the meeting, he even ‘forgot’ to wear the mask as he walked out to talk to the participants, and the accompanying staff had to remind him.
The WSJ reported that some attendees supposed that Li seemed to ignore the mask-wearing rule under Beijing’s strict anti-epidemic rules.
According to government officials and policy advisers, Li’s remarks and actions have signalized that Xi’s ‘dynamic zero’ policy is controversial at the top of the Chinese Communist Party. However, Li has not publicly challenged Xi’s anti-epidemic policies.
The State Council Information Office handling media questions about top leader have not responded to WSJ’s request for comments.