China’s new premier, the country’s No. 2 leader after Xi Jinping, sought on Monday to reinvigorate confidence in the faltering economy, promising that private-sector companies would be treated equally with state-owned ones and that the property rights and other interests of entrepreneurs would be strictly respected, the New York Times reported. Premier Li Qiang, who took office on Saturday, strongly endorsed the role of entrepreneurs after a decade in which the state and the ruling Communist Party have played a steadily growing role in China’s economy, with some pro-party commentators castigating big businesses. Weak confidence, spending and investment by consumers and private businesses have hurt the economy, which has slowed sharply over the past few years. The Communist Party is under immense pressure to revive growth, which was battered by nearly three years of “zero Covid” restrictions, including mass testing and quarantines. Lengthy city lockdowns that confined hundreds of millions of people to their homes disrupted factory production and left consumers and businesses alike with little confidence to spend. Even after the government lifted those pandemic rules in December, many entrepreneurs have been wary of making new investments. Some have even left the country as the climate for private businesses has deteriorated. The state-led banking system has been steering more loans in recent years to state-owned enterprises. Government-controlled construction companies have squeezed out many private real estate developers. The Communist Party has insisted on a larger role in the decision-making of private companies. And many local governments have forced private companies to make large “donations” or pay arbitrarily imposed fines to help cover the costs of social programs. Read more.