Local governments lower GDP targets

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Technicians work at an automobile plant in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province. [Photo/for China Daily by Tan Qingjun]

China's local governments have lowered their GDP growth targets for this year following the release of their growth figures last year, leaving more room for economic restructuring to seek high-quality development.

By Monday, 30 of China's 31 mainland provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions had released their GDP growth figures, with South China's Guangdong province leading the nation to achieve a GDP scale of 9.73 trillion yuan ($1.4 trillion) last year, followed by Jiangsu province, whose GDP totaled 9.26 trillion yuan, according to local statistics bureaus.

Guangdong's GDP scale is close to that of South Korea, whose GDP reached $1.53 trillion in 2017, the world's 12th largest economy, according to World Bank data.

Guangdong's GDP growth was 6.8 percent year-on-year last year, compared with 6.7 percent for Jiangsu.

"Thanks to the integrated regional development of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao and its focus on innovation, Guangdong achieved impressive growth last year," said Zhou Minliang, an economist at the Institute of Industrial Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

In per capita terms, however, China still lags far behind developed economies. For instance, Guangdong's per capita GDP is only one-third that of Japan.

China's local economic development last year also featured more balanced growth as the less developed regions, such as northwestern Qinghai province and southwestern Tibet autonomous region, have achieved growth rates higher than the overall national growth, which will help the country's drive to alleviate poverty, Zhou said.

Facing downward growth pressure, many provinces have lowered their growth targets for this year. For instance, Guangdong has set a growth target of between 6 percent and 6.5 percent for this year, compared with about 7 percent it set last year. Zhejiang, the country's third-largest local economy, set a target of 6.5 percent, down from its target of about 7 percent it set last year.

The lowering of growth targets by local governments shows that they are quite conscious of the downward growth pressure, said Zhang Jun, chief economist of Morgan Stanley Huaxin Securities.

China's GDP growth slowed to 6.6 percent year-on-year last year and it is expected to continue facing strong headwinds this year.

"China's economic growth will face difficulties from both domestic and external fronts," said Liang Haiming, president of China Silk Road iValley Research Institute and a visiting scholar at Princeton University.

Its GDP growth may fall between 6 percent to 6.5 percent this year and the central government will boost growth through loosening monetary and fiscal policy, expanding domestic demand, fostering new growth engines and increasing infrastructure investment, he said.

Consumption has become a major pillar of the Chinese economy and the country is expected to increase support for consumption of services, such as health, education, culture, sports and entertainment to boost growth, Liang added.

Local economies should focus on innovation-driven development to contribute to the country's pursuit of high-quality development, said Zhou from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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