China’s Xi calls for patience as Communist Party tries to reverse economic slump

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BEIJING (AP) — Chinese leader Xi Jinping has called for patience in a speech released as the ruling Communist Party tries to reverse a deepening economic slump and said Western countries are “increasingly in trouble” because of their materialism and “spiritual poverty.”

Xi’s speech was published by Qiushi, the party’s top theoretical journal, hours after data Tuesday showed consumer and factory activity weakened further in July despite official promises to support struggling entrepreneurs. The government skipped giving an update on a politically sensitive spike in unemployment among young people.

Xi, the country’s most powerful leader in decades, called for China to “build a socialist ideology with strong cohesion” and to focus on long-term goals of improving education, health care and food supplies for China’s 1.4 billion people instead of only pursuing short-term material wealth.

Since taking power in 2012, Xi has called for restoring the ruling party’s role as an economic and social leader and has tightened control over business and society since taking power in 2012. Some changes come at a rising cost as successful Chinese companies are pressured to divert money into political initiatives including processor chip development. The party tightened control over tech industries by launching data security and anti-monopoly crackdowns that wiped out billions of dollars of their stock market value.

“We must maintain historic patience and insist on making steady, step-by-step progress,” Xi said in the speech. Qiushi said it was delivered in February in the southwestern city of Chongqing. It is common for Qiushi journal to publish speeches months after they are delivered.

Economic growth slid to 0.8% in the three months ending in June compared with the previous month, down from 2.2% in January-March. That is equivalent to a 3.2% annual rate, which would be among China’s weakest in decades.

A survey in June found unemployment among urban workers aged 16 to 24 spiked to a record 21.3%. The statistics bureau said this week it would withhold updates while it refined its measurement.

The government also has expanded anti-spying rules and tightened controls on information, leaving foreign and private companies uncertain about what activities might be allowed.

Xi stressed “common prosperity,” a 1950s party slogan he has revived. He called for narrowing China’s yawning wealth gap between a tiny elite and the poor majority and to “regulate the healthy development of capital” but announced no new initiatives.

“Common prosperity for all people” is an “essential feature of Chinese-style modernization and distinguishes it from Western modernization,” Xi said.

Western-style modernization “pursues the maximization of capital interests instead of serving the interests of the vast majority of people,” Xi said.

“Today, Western countries are increasingly in trouble,” Xi said. “They cannot curb the greedy nature of capital and cannot solve chronic diseases such as materialism and spiritual poverty.”

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