China's 2014 growth in focus as leaders met on reform plans

Tue Dec 10, 2013 2:45am EST
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By Kevin Yao

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's leaders began mapping out their economic and reform plans for 2014 behind closed doors on Tuesday, and would have drawn confidence from data showing the economy has sustained momentum from a mid-year pick-up into the final quarter.

Even as the government's 7.5 percent growth target for this year looks increasingly secure, some advisors think it may not issue a specific target for 2014 in order to have more room to pursue reforms intended to lead to more sustainable growth.

The government has repeatedly said it has the appetite to overhaul the world's second-largest economy, and last month outlined an ambitious agenda for the next decade, but it has also shown a distaste for growth slowing towards 7 percent.

Top government think tanks, which make policy proposals, were still debating whether the growth target should be cut to 7 percent in 2014 from this year's 7.5 percent as the leadership convened in Beijing for the Central Economic Work Conference.

Zhao Xijun, deputy head of the Finance and Securities Institute at Renmin University in Beijing, said he had proposed to the government that it set a range of 7-7.5 percent, but saw an outside chance that Beijing simply scrapped the target.

"It's even better not to announce a target, otherwise you strengthen the importance of GDP," Zhao said, adding that the government could simply stress economic stability for next year.

The annual conference brings together top party leaders, ministers and provincial officials to set economic targets for the year ahead, which will be unveiled in parliament next March, according to government economists familiar with the meetings.

High on the agenda this year is a detailed reform plan for 2014 after the Communist Party last month unveiled sweeping economic and social changes, including relaxing the country's one-child policy and liberalizing financial markets.   Continued...

A worker operates a machine to cut a pipeline at a factory in Qingdao, Shandong province November 29, 2013. REUTERS/China Daily