Type to search

China Sets 5% Growth Target as National Congress Begins

Premier Ki Keqiang and many reform-oriented policy officials are set to retire during the Congress, making way for loyalists to President Xi Jinping

China set a 5% growth target as National Congress begins
Outgoing PM Li Keqiang, right, speaks with President Xi Jinping at the NPC opening in Beijing. Reuters photo 5 March 2023.


China set a lower-than-expected target for economic growth this year of around 5% on Sunday at the launch of its annual National People’s Congress (NPC).

Three years of tough Covid restrictions, plus the crisis in its property sector and weakening demand for exports meant that China’s economy only grew by 3% last year, one of its lowest outcomes over decades.

Outgoing Premier Li Keqiang stressed the need for stability and expanding consumption in his work report, which set a goal to create around 12 million urban jobs this year, up from last year’s target of at least 11 million. He also warned that risks remain in the real estate sector.

Li set a budget deficit target at 3.0% of GDP, widening from a goal of around 2.8% last year.

“We should give priority to the recovery and expansion of consumption,” said Li, who spoke for just under an hour in a speech to open the parliament, which will run through March 13.

“The incomes of urban and rural residents should be boosted through multiple channels. We should stabilize spending on big-ticket items and promote recovery in consumption of consumer services,” he said.


US Looking to Ban Some Investment in Adversarial Nations – WSJ


This year’s growth target of around 5% was at the low end of expectations, as policy sources had said recently a range as high as 6% could be set. It is also below last year’s target of around 5.5%.

“While the official growth target has been lowered for the second consecutive year, which might be a disappointment to the market, we reckon investors (should) pay attention to the underlying growth momentum to gauge the recovery pace,” Zhou Hao, an economist at Guotai Junan International, said.


Wide-ranging government reorganisation

Li and a slate of more reform-oriented economic policy officials are set to retire during the congress, making way for loyalists to President Xi Jinping, who further tightened his grip on power when he secured a precedent-breaking third leadership term at October’s Communist Party Congress.

During the NPC, former Shanghai party chief Li Qiang, a longtime Xi ally, is expected to be confirmed as premier, tasked with reinvigorating the world’s second-largest economy.

The rubber-stamp parliament is also poised to implement the biggest government shake-up in a decade.

The Congress will also discuss Xi’s plans for an “intensive” and “wide-ranging” reorganisation of state and Communist Party entities, state media reported last week, with analysts expecting a further deepening of Communist Party penetration of state bodies.


Military spending to rise 7.2%

Li said China’s armed forces should devote greater energy to training under combat conditions and boost combat preparedness, and the budget included a 7.2% increase in defence spending this year, a slightly bigger increase than last year’s budgeted 7.1% rise and again exceeding expected GDP growth.

On Taiwan, Li struck a moderate tone, saying China should promote the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations and advance the process of China’s “peaceful reunification”, but also take resolute steps to oppose Taiwan independence.

Beijing faces a host of challenges including increasingly fraught relations with the United States and a worsening demographic outlook, with plunging birth rates and a population drop last year for the first time since the famine year of 1961.

China plans to lower the costs of childbirth, childcare and education and will actively respond to an ageing population and a decrease in fertility, the nation’s state planner said in a work report released on Sunday.

The NPC opened on a smoggy day amid tight security in the Chinese capital, with 2,948 delegates gathered in the cavernous Great Hall of the People on the west side of Tiananmen Square.

During the session, China’s legislature will vote on a plan to reform institutions under the State Council, or cabinet, and decide on a new cabinet line-up for the next five years, according to a meeting agenda.

It is the first NPC meeting since China abruptly dropped its zero-Covid policy in December, following rare nationwide protests. Excluding the pandemic-shortened meetings of the previous three years, this year’s session will be the shortest in at least 40 years, according to NPC Observer, a blog.


  •  Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard





US ‘Discussing Possible China Sanctions’ With Allies Over Ukraine


Blinken Warning on ‘Lethal Aid’ for Russia Strains China Ties


China’s First Population Decline in 60 Years Sparks Concern


Six Chinese firms blacklisted over ‘spy balloons’


Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


AF China Bond