Premier Li Keqiang has rallied the troops down to county government levels as the economy enters a critical stage under the strain of Covid-19 outbreaks and lockdowns. In an extraordinary feat of micromanagement, Li is reinforcing Beijing’s policies to ensure the economy’s growth, protect people’s livelihoods, and preserve jobs. It comes as concerns are raised that China may miss the economic growth target of 5.5 per cent that the central government laid out earlier this year. In effect, Li is fine-tuning the implementation and execution of policies but is also calling on cadres to exercise judgment and flexibility pragmatically by responding to local conditions. He is taking his message down to all 2,844 county-level governments, involving about 100,000 cadres who are at the forefront of implementing China’s economic policies. The State Council has just unveiled 33 policy measures to “get the economy back on a normal track”, among which is 140 billion yuan (HK$164 billion) earmarked to boost economic incentives and provide tax breaks. About 40 per cent of that budget will be provisions for tax cuts to stimulate the car industry. Manufacturing is a major tax contributor and job provider for the economy, likewise the property industry. The central bank has cut the loan prime rate for mortgages, and local authorities are relaxing their chokehold on policies to spur the real estate industry back to life. At a time of Covid-19 lockdowns and job insecurity, demand for cars and homes will dry up; the government must step in to help sustain businesses. Reviving the property sector is especially important. Local governments have long been heavily dependent on land sales for revenue to supplement funding from the central government. But with the property industry in a slump, they cannot sell land, and revenues dry up to pay for services within their jurisdictions. To untie that knot, incentives and policy boosts are in place to revive the property industry and economic activities tied to it. While Li’s latest exercise in micromanagement is impressive, it is also reinforcing directives already issued by Vice-Premier Liu He to local authorities, particularly in Covid-hit districts, to ensure smooth logistics and the delivery of essential supplies and services to residents put under lockdowns. Much has been made by foreign observers of Beijing possibly missing its growth target this year. Except for a narrow miss in 1998, China has always met or exceeded targets. It did not, however, report a target in 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic first hit. But growth targets are no longer the be all and end all. Besides striving for economic growth, stabilising employment, helping small business and protecting people’s lives and livelihoods are equally important.