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China sets its GDP growth target at 7.5 percent this year, down from 8 percent in 2011, according to a government work report delivered by Premier Wen Jiabao at the parliament's annual session Monday.
This is the first time for the Chinese government to lower its economic growth target after keeping it around 8 percent for seven consecutive years, in face of global turbulence and a pressing demand for accelerating economic structural improvement after years of breakneck growth.
"Here I wish to stress that in setting a slightly lower GDP growth rate, we hope to make it fit with targets in the Twelfth Five-Year Plan, and to guide people in all sectors to focus their work on accelerating the transformation of the pattern of economic development and making economic development more sustainable and efficient, so as to achieve higher-level, higher-quality development over a longer period of time," Wen said.
Previously, China has announced to target an annual average GDP growth of 7 percent from 2011 to 2015, the country's 12th Five-Year Plan period.
China's economy expanded by 9.2 percent in 2011 to 47.16 trillion yuan ($7.49 trillion) from a year earlier after it grew 10.4 percent in 2010. In the fourth quarter last year, the country's GDP growth decelerated to 8.9 percent year-on-year, the slowest pace in 10 quarters.
The government has set the main theme of this year's economic and social development as "make progress while maintaining stability" at a tone-setting central economic work conference in December last year.
China still faces many difficulties and challenges internationally and domestically in economic and social development, according to Wen.
"We are keenly aware of that," he said, describing the global economic recovery as "tortuous".
The International Monetary Fund has lowered its forecast for China's GDP growth this year to 8.2 percent from the 9 percent projected in September 2011. It said China's projected growth could be cut by nearly half if the eurozone, its biggest trade partner, suffers a sharp downturn due to the debt problems.
Domestically, Wen said, it has become more urgent and more difficult to solve institutional and structural problems and alleviate the problem of unbalanced, uncoordinated, and unsustainable development.
"The lowered target has not only reflected government consideration on the economic situation, but also determination to shift focus to quality growth, leaving enough room for transformation of the country's development patterns," said former Assistant Minister of Commerce Huang Hai.
China will continue to follow a proactive fiscal policy and a prudent monetary policy, carry out "timely and appropriate anticipatory adjustments and fine-tuning", and make its policies "more targeted, flexible, and anticipatory", according to the report.
"To achieve steady growth, we will continue to expand domestic demand and keep foreign demand stable, vigorously develop the real economy, work hard to counter the impact of various factors of instability and uncertainty at home and abroad, promptly resolve emerging issues that signal unfavorable trends, and maintain stable economic performance," said Wen.
The Chinese government has set the aim of holding this year's consumer price growth at around 4 percent. China's consumer price index (CPI), a main gauge of inflation, rose 4.5 percent year-on-year in January, down from a 37-month high of 6.5 percent in July last year.