GDP target set at 6.5 percent as opening-up, quality and efficiency are emphasized, Li says in annual Government Work Report
China will continue to pursue stable economic growth this year, setting its GDP growth target at around 6.5 percent, and further open up its economy to foreign investors, Premier Li Keqiang said on Monday morning while delivering the annual Government Work Report.[Special coverage]
The country opposes protectionism and supports the settlement of trade disputes through negotiation, Li told the first session of the 13th National People's Congress.
The growth target is unchanged from last year's despite China's achievement of a higher-than-expected 6.9 percent GDP growth in 2017, the first acceleration in seven years. This year's report does not contain wording similar to last year's, which said that "a higher growth rate will be pursued if possible in practice".
"The Chinese economy is expected to be quite stable this year and the priority will be put on improving growth quality and efficiency," Liu Shijin, a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee member, told reporters.
Li said that the country will forcefully pursue high-quality development, a stance that was put forward by Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, at the 19th National Congress of the Party.
Li also said China will continue to carry out the three critical battles－namely forestalling and defusing major risks, targeting poverty alleviation and controlling pollution.
"The government is trying to tackle environmental protection, high housing prices and medical reform as well as educational reform. If the government can tackle these issues, that means more people would be able to enjoy the fruit of economic development," Henry Gao, associate professor at the School of Law at Singapore Management University, was quoted by Channel NewsAsia as saying.
Li vowed, "Reform will be further deepened, opening-up will be further expanded."
China will fully open up its general manufacturing sectors to foreign investors, expand opening-up in such sectors as telecommunications, health, education, elderly care and new energy vehicles, and open up the bank card settlement market in an orderly manner, he ensured.
China will also ease entry into such fields as insurance, banking, securities, fund management and futures and financial asset management, and will further simplify procedures for doing business for foreign businesses, the premier added. The foreign investment approval system will give way to negative list management, he said.
The negative list defines which fields are inaccessible for foreign investors, while others are presumed to be open. The list is meant to facilitate foreign investment as the country's policies become more predictable.
"Further opening up China's economy for foreign investment－including establishment of a nationwide negative list－will be key for productivity increases in the economy," said Bert Hofman, the World Bank's country director for China. "It will also contribute to maintaining an open international economic system, which remains key for China's future and healthy development of the world economy."
Li also said China will take forceful measures to forestall financial risks. It will improve supervision over shadow banking, internet finance and financial holding companies as well as improving financial regulation and strengthening local government debt management.
The Government Work Report also reviewed China's reform and development over the past five years.
Li said, "Over the past five years, we have encountered a great many problems and challenges. ... The achievements we made ... we owe to the strong leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, the sound guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, and to the concerted efforts of the Party, the military, and the people of all our nation's ethnic groups."