China premier says 7 percent growth goal never set in stone

Sun Oct 25, 2015 5:57am EDT
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By Ben Blanchard

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has never said the economy must grow seven percent this year, Premier Li Keqiang said in comments reported by the government ahead of a key meeting this week that will set economic and social targets for the next five years.

Li's comments coincide with remarks by a top central bank official, who said on Saturday that China would be able to keep annual economic growth at around 6-7 percent over that period.

The statements come at a time of growing concern in global financial markets over China's once mighty economic juggernaut.

China cut interest rates for the sixth time in less than a year on Friday. Monetary policy easing in the world's second-largest economy is at its most aggressive since the 2008/09 financial crisis, as growth looks set to slip to a 25-year-low this year of under 7 percent.

China's economy grew 6.9 percent in the July-to-September quarter from a year earlier, data showed last week.

Speaking on Friday at the Central Party School, which trains rising officials, Li said the economic difficulties ahead for China should not be underestimated.

His report to the annual meeting of parliament set this year's GDP growth target at about seven percent.

"We have never said that we should defend to the death any goal, but that the economy should operate within a reasonable range," the central government paraphrased Li as saying in a statement released on its website late on Saturday.   Continued...

China's Premier Li Keqiang delivers a speech at a reception marking China's 66th National Day at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing September 30, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Lee