Chinese Premier Li Qiang will not hold a press conference after an annual session of parliament closes next week, a spokesman for the legislature said Monday, breaking with tradition since 1993 and stoking concerns about the opaqueness of the country's policies.

Li, who assumed the premiership during a National People's Congress session last year, will skip news conferences at the end of annual parliamentary meetings for the remainder of his five-year term through 2028 unless there are special circumstances, spokesman Lou Qinjian told reporters.

New Chinese Premier Li Qiang speaks at his first press conference after his appointment to the post at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing March 13, 2023. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Li held his first press conference as premier after last year's session ended.

Such news conferences by the country's premier, who is in charge of steering economic policy, have served as a rare opportunity for the media to directly ask questions.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said Monday that worries about the country's openness are "unnecessary" as there will be many meetings open to the media during the upcoming parliamentary session and that sufficient information will be provided.

This year's weeklong gathering will open Tuesday, Lou said. On the first day, Li is expected to unveil a 2024 gross domestic product growth target for the world's second-largest economy, which has been slowing amid a prolonged property-sector crisis.

In 2023, China's GDP expanded a real 5.2 percent from a year earlier, meeting the country's annual target of around 5.0 percent due partly to the previous year's low baseline caused by the stringent "zero-COVID" policy. Observers say Beijing could set a growth goal of around 5.0 percent again this year.

China will also announce its 2024 military spending on Tuesday, following a 7.2 percent rise unveiled during the parliamentary session last year. Lou said the increase in the defense budget is "reasonable" and in line with the country's economic growth.

"Compared with major military powers such as the United States, China's defense spending is quite low" in terms of its ratio to GDP and per-citizen expenditure, Lou said. "China is committed to the path of peaceful development," he added.

The parliamentary spokesman countered criticism that China's revised anti-espionage law, which took effect in July last year, has raised fears among foreign businesses about arbitrary enforcement.

Calling such a view a "misinterpretation" of the law, Lou said the legislation has "actually refined the definition of espionage activities and made clear the line between legal and illegal activities."

"It does not target normal business activities, research cooperation and academic exchanges," he said. "We are opposed to any attempt to denigrate or attack China's business environment by misinterpreting" the counterespionage law, the spokesman added.

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