China's Premier Li says economy could grow over 6% as Parliament approves new growth plan

K J M Varma
·3-min read

Beijing, Mar 11 (PTI) Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday projected that the world's second largest economy could grow higher than the official target of six per cent as lawmakers approved a new development blueprint for the next five to 15 years, amid growing tensions with the US.

China's Parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), adopted the Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035 at its closing meeting on Thursday.

The new plans set ambitious goals as China wants to make its economy more reliant on innovation due to the US sanctions on core technologies like semiconductor chips.

Under the new plan, China targets a seven per cent increase in R&D which could total to about USD 580 billion by 2025 by which time the world's second largest economy expects 65 per cent of its population to live in urban areas with better employment opportunities.

During his tenure, former US president Donald Trump pushed aggressively on all aspects of US-China ties, including with his relentless trade war, challenging China's military hold on the disputed South China Sea, its constant threats to Taiwan, the mass detention of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, branding coronavirus as 'China virus' after it emerged from Wuhan in December 2019 and the Tibet issue.

Newly appointed Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that president Trump was right to take a tougher approach on China.

China also looks to ramp up its nuclear power generation capacity to 70 gigawatts of nuclear energy by 2025 from about 50 gigawatts in 2020 to reduce reliance on coal.

At a virtual press conference at the end of the Parliament session, Li said China will continue to scale up inputs in driving scientific and technological innovations for the next five years, and more efforts will be made to encourage the private sector's participation in research and development.

While China has achieved major breakthroughs in scientific and technological innovations, the country still lags behind in terms of basic research, he said.

Official data showed spending on basic research only accounted for six per cent of total R&D, whereas the number for developed countries ranges between 15 and 25 per cent, he said.

He also said his recent announcement at the NPC setting a six per cent GDP growth target for 2021 is not low. Asked why he set a lower target while the International Monetary Fund projected 8 per cent GDP growth for China, Li said the number was 'not set in stone' but intended to 'guide expectations.' 'We would certainly be happy to see a robust growth,' Li said, adding that 'but we are also keenly aware of the many uncertainties involving the economic rebound in China as well as global economic growth and development.' He said China continues to prioritise employment in formulating macro policies this year with a target of creating more than 11 million new urban jobs.

Faced with the pressure of an about 14-million-strong new labour force joining the market this year, China will make employment the top priority when it implements the policy of ensuring economic stability and security.

He also said China's aging population of 60 years crossed 260 million, highlighting the country’s demographic crisis.

But the huge aging population also indicates new market demands, which means international enterprises have opportunities to offer their services and products in the country's open market, he said.

China will further cut the negative list on market access for foreign investors, open up the services sector, optimize its business environment and hold a positive and open attitude toward multilateral and bilateral mechanisms that are mutually beneficial, Li said. PTI KJV ZH AKJ ZH ZH