[July 18, 2014]
SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) -
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said economic growth of slightly more or
less than 7.5 percent this year would be acceptable as long it still
led to new jobs and higher wages, the official Xinhua news agency
reported late on Thursday.
"Growth rate slightly higher or lower than 7.5 percent is
acceptable, as long as our development creates jobs, boosts incomes,
has quality and efficiency, favors energy savings and environmental
protection, and is not an exaggeration and (is) real," Xinhua quoted
Li as saying at an economic symposium on Tuesday. Analysts suggested
Li's latest remarks signaled some flexibility in hitting the annual
growth target and put more emphasis on reform than simple expansion.
"This shows that he (Li) is more comfortable about the economy,"
said Lu Zhengwei, chief economist at Industrial Bank in Shanghai.
"When growth is back on target, there is no need to push too hard
(on policy), which could worsen economic structures."
Premier Li said during a visit to London in June that the economy
would grow by at least 7.5 percent in 2014, surprising many market
watchers after a weak start to the year, and reinforced expectations
of more government assistance to come.
Li's softening tone on growth could also reflect increased optimism
among policymakers that the economy has turned the corner after a
burst of policy stimulus, including a hefty rise in bank loans in
China's annual economic growth picked up slightly to 7.5 percent in
the second quarter as policy measures took effect, but analysts said
Beijing will probably need to offer more support to meet its annual
growth target in the midst of a slowing property market.
The cabinet emphasized at a regular meeting on Wednesday that this
year's key economic targets must be accomplished, and urged local
government officials to seriously implement reforms and policy
Analysts saw these remarks as intended for local officials who were
criticized by the cabinet for being "lazy and slack" in implementing
Beijing's policy directives as they kept their heads down to stay
out of trouble during President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption
In March, the government set an economic growth target of around 7.5
percent for 2014, along with an inflation target around 3.5 percent.
The government will stick with its "targeted" approach in
macro-economic policies, and will rely more on reforms and market
forces to drive growth, Li said.
As a developing country, China must keep economic growth within a
"reasonable range" over the long term, he noted.
(Reporting by Kazunori Takada and Kevin Yao; Editing by Jacqueline
Wong and Eric Meijer)