China's economy is showing signs of doing better than expected thanks to its stimulus package, said Premier Wen Jiabao, adding that Asian economies should enhance cooperation to battle the financial crisis.
"China's stimulus package is starting to pay off and positive changes have taken place in the economy," Wen said at the Boao Forum for Asia in South China's Hainan province over the weekend. "The situation is better than expected."
Leaders stand for a group photo ahead of the opening ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia annual conference in Boao, Hainan province, on Saturday. [Xinhua]
His comments came after the nation's annualized gross domestic product growth sank to 6.1 percent in the first quarter, the weakest in a decade. However, economists say real economic growth has gained momentum over the past months as the government's stimulus package has kicked in.
The nation's industrial output grew 8.3 percent in March from a year earlier, compared with 3.8 percent for the first two months. Meanwhile, retail sales, after being adjusted for inflation, expanded 15.9 percent for the first quarter, 3.6 percentage points higher than the same period a year earlier.
However, Wen said it's still necessary to prepare for greater long-term difficulty, given the uncertainties of the world economy.
Richard Yorke, president and CEO of HSBC Bank (China) Co, told China Daily on the sidelines of the forum that the lender has recorded a strong rebound in its trade finance business in the first quarter, indicating that the stimulus package is working.
He expects the Chinese economy to pick up "even more strongly" in the second half of this year as the bulk of the stimulus package filters through.
The UK-based lender plans to increase its outlets on the Chinese mainland to around 100 by the end of 2009, up from the current 82, as part of its continued expansion to grow its share in the country's financial market. Wen also called on Asian nations to strengthen cooperation to deal with the ongoing crisis.
"We should advance reform of the international financial system, increase the representation and voice of emerging markets and developing countries, strengthen surveillance of the macroeconomic policies of major reserve currency issuing economies and develop a more diversified international monetary system," he said.
Wen said China is resolutely opposed to trade protectionism and is committed to deepening economic and trade cooperation with other nations. He also said China will set up a $10-billion infrastructure fund for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to support infrastructure projects in the region.