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China Sets Sights on Revamping Economy, Aiming for 5% Growth

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China has pledged to recalibrate its economic strategy, aiming for a stable growth target of approximately 5% this year. This commitment was unveiled by Premier Li Qiang during his first work report at the National People’s Congress (NPC) annual meeting. The outlined growth, akin to the previous year’s target, underscores China’s intent to rejuvenate its development model, address industrial surplus, mitigate risks within the property sector, and curtail inefficiencies in local government expenditure.

Situated against the backdrop of Tiananmen Square’s Great Hall of the People, Premier Li articulated the necessity of enhanced governmental stimulus to achieve this year’s economic goals, amidst China’s reliance on state-backed infrastructure projects that have accumulated substantial municipal debt.

China’s economic landscape, particularly in the aftermath of COVID-19, has revealed significant structural imbalances ranging from tepid household consumption to diminishing investment returns. This scenario has intensified the call for a developmental paradigm shift, especially as China grapples with a real estate downturn, deflationary pressures, stock market volatility, and escalating local government debt issues.

Premier Li emphasized the importance of preparedness for potential adversities, advocating for a strategic transformation in growth models, structural adjustments, and quality enhancements to bolster economic performance. However, specifics regarding the planned reforms remain undisclosed, leaving investors and markets with a subdued response to the stimulus and reform propositions.

The fiscal strategy for the year involves a proactive fiscal policy and prudent monetary stance, with a budget deficit target set at 3% of GDP, a reduction from the previous year’s revised 3.8%. Additionally, China plans to issue 1 trillion yuan in special ultra-long-term treasury bonds, separate from the budget, and set a local government special bond issuance quota at 3.9 trillion yuan. Other economic objectives include maintaining consumer inflation at 3%, creating over 12 million urban jobs, and stabilizing the unemployment rate around 5.5%.

This cautious approach to economic stimulation and leverage management reflects a broader strategy to balance growth with fiscal responsibility. Analysts predict a recalibration of China’s growth expectations in the coming years, with projections suggesting a gradual decline to around 3.5% by 2028.

The NPC work report also underscored China’s stance on Taiwan, emphasizing a firm commitment to national reunification and condemning separatist and foreign interference activities. In tandem, China’s defense spending is set to increase by 7.2%, marking a continuation of moderate annual budgetary growth and reflecting Beijing’s strategic priorities amid heightened regional tensions.

In alignment with President Xi Jinping’s vision, China aims to bolster its technological innovation and advanced manufacturing sectors, removing foreign investment restrictions in manufacturing and easing market access in various service industries. These initiatives are part of a broader effort to achieve technological self-reliance and stimulate growth in emerging industries such as quantum computing, big data, and artificial intelligence. However, this focus on high-tech manufacturing has sparked debates over its implications for industrial surplus, deflation, and trade relations with the West.

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