World

China can hit 2017 growth target: Premier

Beijing is aiming to achieve economic growth of around 6.5 per cent this year

DALIAN: China is capable of achieving its full-year growth target and controlling systemic risks despite challenges, Premier Li Keqiang said yesterday, adding that maintaining medium- to high-speed long-term growth will not be easy.

Beijing targets economic growth of around 6.5 per cent this year, compared with the 6.7 per cent pace delivered last year - the slowest in 26 years.

In a speech at the World Economic Forum in the northeastern city of Dalian, Mr Li said the Chinese economy remains steady in the second quarter, as domestic demand has become a key pillar for the world's second-largest economy.

"China's economy in the second-quarter maintained the first-quarter's steady and improving momentum. We are fully capable of achieving the main economic targets for the full year," Mr Li said. "Currently, China also faces many difficulties and challenges, but we are fully prepared."

China's economy, which grew a robust 6.9 per cent in the first quarter, generally remained on solid footing last month, but tighter monetary policy, a cooling housing market and slowing investment reinforced views that it will gradually lose momentum in coming months.Beijing has been taking steps to identify and resolve financial risks, which remain generally under control, Mr Li said.

Among those risks is high levels of debt, which recently prompted Moody's to cut its sovereign credit rating on China. Mr Li said that the capital adequacy ratios and provisions for bad loans at Chinese banks were at relatively high levels.

RISKS

"There are indeed some risks in the financial sector, but we are able to uphold the bottom line of no systemic risks," he said.

"We are fully capable of preventing various risks and making sure economic operations will be within a reasonable range."

Mr Li also said Beijing will facilitate foreign investment by relaxing restrictions on how much overseas firms can own of China ventures and making it easier for them to register new companies locally.

China will give foreign investors greater market access to services and industrial sectors as well as treat foreign and domestic firms equally, the premier said - pledges that the government has made before.

He added that China will encourage foreign firms to reinvest their profits in the country but will not restrict the cross-border movement of their earnings. China is trying to bolster consumer-driven growth while curbing excess and outdated capacity in industries such as steel and coal, cuts that Mr Li said will continue.

Mr Li stressed the importance of job creation, and noted that while new technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics could cause job losses, those are offset by growth sectors such as e-commerce, mobile payments and bike-sharing.

Employment has remained stable, Mr Li said, with the survey-based jobless rate at around 4.9 per cent last month - the lowest in many years. - REUTERS

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