China sets ambitious 2024 economic target

China, Mar. 7: China has set an ambitious growth target of around 5% for this year, as it outlined a series of measures aimed at boosting its flagging economy.

Premier Li Qiang made the announcement at the opening of the annual National People’s Congress (NPC) on Tuesday.

Mr Li acknowledged that China’s economic performance had faced “difficulties”, adding that many of these had “yet to be resolved”.

It comes as China struggles to reinvigorate its once-booming economy.

“Risks and potential dangers in real estate, local government debt, and small and medium financial institutions were acute in some areas,” he said. “Under these circumstances, we faced considerably more dilemmas in making policy decisions and doing our work.”

A series of other measures to help tackle the country’s slow recovery from the pandemic were also announced, including the development of new initiatives to tackle problems in the country’s crisis-hit property sector. Beijing also aims to add 12 million jobs in urban areas.

Regulation of financial markets will also be increased, said Premier Li, while research will be stepped up in new technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI) and life sciences.

Along with measures to boost the economy, defence spending will be increased by 7.2% this year.

Beijing’s defence budget is closely watched by its neighbours and the US, due to concerns over its intentions as tensions remain high over Taiwan.

For decades the Chinese economy expanded at a stellar rate, with official figures putting its gross domestic product (GDP) growing at an average of close to 10% a year.

On the way it overtook Japan to become the world’s second largest economy, with Beijing claiming that it had lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.

Beijing says that last year the economy grew by 5.2%, which even at that level is low for China. However, some critics argue the real figure could be less than a third of that.

“I think the next five or 10 years is going to be difficult,” Andrew Collier Managing Director from China research firm Orient Capital Research told the BBC.

“A lot of economists think the numbers are completely fabricated. The idea of 5.2% or 5.5% growth is much likely wrong. It’s more like 1% or 2%,” he added.

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