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VOA Asia Weekly: China's Ambitious Economic Goals

VOA Asia Weekly: China's Ambitious Economic Goals
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South Korean President Yoon condemns striking junior doctors. US passes funding for key Pacific allies. Hong Kong will not ban access to social media apps. Why a French daredevil scaled a Manila skyscraper.

China sets an ambitious growth target despite economic challenges.

Welcome to VOA Asia Weekly. I'm Chris Casquejo in Washington.

That story is coming up. But first – making headlines.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol condemned striking junior doctors on Wednesday and vowed to respond sternly against "illegal collective action.” Junior doctors walked off the job the past two weeks over a government plan to increase medical school enrollment.

Australia's prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have achieved a "great deal of agreement" at the special summit in Melbourne Wednesday that marks 50 years since Australia became the 10-nation bloc’s first external partner.

After years of negotiation, the U.S. Congress finally passed critical funding for 3 Pacific allies. Under the Compacts of Free Association or COFA, Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands will receive a combined $7 billion dollars in economic aid over 20 years. In exchange Washington can deny the Chinese military access to the region.

Pakistan’s Shehbaz Sharif took the oath of office Monday as prime minister for a second time. It comes almost a month after a general election that was marred by allegations of voter fraud and delivered a split mandate.

Hong Kong will not ban access to social media apps with a new security law, officials said on Wednesday, as authorities push new security legislation which failed in 2003.

Google is temporarily restoring its Indian apps under pressure from New Delhi. On Friday – the company removed more than 100 apps for not complying with a service fee. Google says it’s a reprieve while the matter goes through the Indian Supreme Court.

China kicked off its annual session of parliament Tuesday in Beijing. VOA’s Bill Gallo, who attended the event, says Chinese leaders are trying to put a positive spin on the many economic problems they face.

Ambitious economic goals unveiled during the opening of China’s ceremonial parliament.

It’s a chance to project confidence, amid a host of challenges.

Premier Li Qiang announced an economic growth target of about 5 percent – matching last year’s figure.

“Achieving these targets this year is not an easy task, it requires focused policies, doubled efforts in work, and concerted efforts from all sides.”

Chinese leaders have overseen some of the country’s slowest growth in decades, as they deal with a real estate crisis and slowing foreign investment.

But at this choreographed meeting, the mood is upbeat, as China’s political elite endorse the Communist Party’s plans.

“One of the main goals of this meeting is to reassure foreign investors, who have a lot of questions about China’s economy. But the lack of a press conference afterwards may leave a lot of those questions unanswered.”

For decades, China’s premier answered media questions at the end of this gathering. Now, that event has been canceled.

“It is a window of opportunity for international media to get access to insights by the premier himself. Therefore, the cancellation of the presser became a disappointment for many members of the international media community. In fact, many are shocked.”

As he consolidates power, Chinese President Xi Jinping has emphasized national security. That has spooked some foreign companies.

But investors will be encouraged if China meets this year’s economic growth target, says Lim.

“Because last year it was also 5 percent. So two years of 5 percent means there is a sustained recovery from Corona, compared to 2022, when growth was 3 percent. So this is the image that the Chinese government wants to portray.”

China also announced it will boost defense spending by about 7 percent – well above its economic growth target.

Bill Gallo, VOA News, Beijing.

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Finally – With great power comes great responsibility. That’s the signature quote of superhero Spiderman.

This week a man known as the French Spiderman climbed a skyscraper in Manila without a harness.

Alain Robert says he scaled the tower as a statement of support for Philippines maritime claims in the disputed South China Sea.

The stunt drew a crowd and even stopped traffic in Manila’s financial district.

Upon returning to the ground, Robert was immediately arrested and fined $18 U.S. dollars.

Thanks for watching VOA Asia Weekly.