China's leaders have fixed a target for economic
growth in 2007 of around 8 percent as part of plans made during their annual
Central Economic Work Conference, a top government economist said on Wednesday.
However, Zheng Xinli, an economist for the ruling Communist Party's policy
research office, said that the goal -- compared with 10.7 percent annual growth
in the first nine months of this year -- did not forebode a serious slowdown
"The central government set the target of around 8 percent because it cannot
set a very high target. If the target were 10, then the actual growth could be
12 percent," Zheng, who attended the conference, told reporters.
A government source said earlier this week that the closed-door meeting was
likely to aim for 9.3 percent growth next year.
Zheng said he personally still expected growth of around 10 percent in 2007,
and that he and other government economists were forecasting full-year growth
for 2006 to come in at 10.5 percent.
He said the central authorities had stressed during the meeting that China
needed to stick to a stable monetary and fiscal policy, and avoid tightening
monetary conditions too much.
Beijing had also urged local governments to focus their investment more on
the services sector and other industries that would spur consumption, and less
on those that are highly polluting or consume large amounts of energy.
The government has been striving for some time now for greater energy
efficiency as part of a shift in China's growth model away from exports and
investment and towards consumption.
The 8 percent target was the same as the one announced for 2006 at the annual
session of parliament in March, but the strong growth in the first three
quarters puts the economy firmly on course to log full-year growth in double
digits for the fourth year in a row.