President Xi Defends China's Economy As Growth Collapses

Shortly after the release of the latest round of disappointing economic data which confirmed that China's economy likely continued to slow in December, President Xi Jinping delivered a speech to the nation where he defended his economic policies, saying China's economy expanded "within a reasonable range" during 2018, despite the fact that its stock market was the worst performer among major economies and the rate of growth of its massive economy slowed for the first time in a decade.

On Monday, China's official manufacturing PMI fell to 49.4 in December, from 50.0 in November, the lowest reading since February 2016, and the weakest reading for a December since 2008 (to be fair, some weakness in the December PMI is typical due to seasonal factors).

PMI

Factory orders and other economic indicators released so far this month suggest that China's economy has slowed for the seventh straight month in December. This comes after China's GDP grew 6.5% during the third quarter, the slowest rate since 2009.

December

With negotiations over the US-China trade truce expected to start shortly after the first of the year, Xi insisted that China would remain "resolute" in defending its sovereignty - a reference to China's dominance of the South China Sea - and press ahead with its "One Belt, One Road" initiative.

"Looking at the world at large, we're facing a period of major change never seen in a century. No matter what these changes bring, China will remain resolute and confident in its defence of its national sovereignty and security," he said.

On the domestic front, Xi touted China's success at lifting another 10 million people out of poverty this year, while praising its efforts to curb pollution in its air, water and soil.

"The improvement of the people's well being speeded up and their living standards were steadily improved," he said. "We have also made great strides in our poverty alleviation efforts in the past year. Another 125 poor counties and 10 million poverty-stricken rural residents were lifted out of poverty in 2018," he said referring to progress to his pledge that China will eradicate poverty by 2020.

Xi's remarks come after he confirmed that he had a constructive conversation with President Trump over the weekend about a trade war and urged the US to "meet China half way" when striking a trade deal.

Watch Xi's address (with English subtitles) below: