January 21, 2019 / 10:30 AM / in a month

Xi keeps China on high alert for 'black swan' events: Xinhua

BEIJING (Reuters) - China must be on guard against “black swan” risks while fending off “grey rhino” events, President Xi Jinping said on Monday, adding that the economy faces deep and complicated changes, state news agency Xinhua reported.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during an event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the "Message to Compatriots in Taiwan" at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China January 2, 2019. REUTERS/Mark Schiefelbein/Pool

A “black swan” event refers to an unforeseen occurrence that typically has extreme consequences, while a “grey rhino” is a highly obvious yet ignored threat.

Xi’s warning came after the release of data on Monday showed the economy posted the slowest growth in 28 years last year, hurt by faltering domestic demand and bruising U.S. tariffs.

Local governments and state organizations should find a balance between stabilizing growth and fending off risks, controlling the pace and intensity of such policies, Xi said in remarks during a meeting with provincial and department officials.

Sliding growth had pressured the government to roll out more stimulus to avert a sharper slowdown. The central bank has cut the reserve requirement ratio for banks five times in the past year.

Economic operations would be maintained within a reasonable range, Xi said, adding financing difficulties of small businesses will be resolved pragmatically while authorities would also step up support for companies to stabilise jobs.

Zombie firms - companies with a lot of debt - would be dissolved properly and resettlement of workers would be taken care of accordingly, Xi added.

China would implement long-term mechanisms that support the stable and healthy development of the property market, while making thorough evaluation of the potential impact on financial markets when drafting policies, according to Xi, who did not elaborate.

He emphasized that technology safety was an important part of national security and the country will accelerate legislation in artificial intelligence, gene editing, autonomous vehicles and drones.

Faced with complicated and difficult external environment, China would step up the protection of its overseas interests while making sure of the safety of major overseas projects and their personnel, Xi said.

Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei was arrested last month in Canada on a U.S. extradition request.

Western intelligence agencies have for years raised concerns about Huawei’s ties to China’s government and the possibility its equipment could be used for espionage.

Reporting by Stella Qiu, Yawen Chen and Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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