China dropped its annual growth target for the first time on Friday and pledged more government spending as the COVID-19 pandemic hammers the world’s second-biggest economy. The omission from Premier Li Keqiang’s work report during this year’s meeting of parliament marks the first time China has not set a target for gross domestic product (GDP) since the government began publishing such goals in 1990.The economy shrank 6.8% in the first quarter, the first contraction in decades, hit by the outbreak of the new coronavirus. “We have not set a specific target for economic growth for the year, mainly because the global epidemic situation and economic and trade situation are very uncertain, and China’s development is facing some unpredictable factors,” Li said at the start of parliament. Beijing is facing increasing international pressure to answer questions over the origins of the coronavirus.Tensions with Washington are boiling over once more as officials blame each other for mismanagement of the outbreak, and hopes of a comprehensive trade deal on the table before the pandemic, are quickly fading. China’s hopes to continue its path of economic growth have been shattered by the coronavirus, which was first detected in Wuhan in December 2019. Millions of people were placed under lockdown, non-essential businesses were ordered shut and the economy was brought to a pause in efforts to contain the virus. Meanwhile, the pandemic has shaped up to be one of the Communist Party’s biggest ever leadership challenges.