China turns corner on economy as party chooses new leaders

Sat Nov 10, 2012 11:25pm EST
 
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By Kevin Yao

BEIJING (Reuters) - China announced on Saturday that it is effectively turning the corner on the economy and likely to meet its growth target for the year, more good news for Communist Party policy makers meeting in Beijing to anoint new leaders for the next decade.

The world's second-biggest economy had halted a slowing trend, the chief of the economic planning agency said, adding that he was confident GDP growth would exceed 7.5 percent in 2012 though at the same time warning against complacency.

Zhang Ping, head of the National Development and Reform Commission, was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the 18th Party Congress at which outgoing President Hu Jintao said China should double its 2010 GDP and per capita income by 2020, as previous targets have implied.

Hu said China's development should be "much more balanced, coordinated and sustainable". The party, which has constantly stressed the need for continued one-party rule, has in recent years tied its legitimacy to economic growth and lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty.

"Signs of stabilization in the economy were getting more obvious in October," Zhang said. "We are fully confident that we can achieve the economic growth target for this year. In other words, we are able to maintain economic growth of above 7.5 percent.

"But we dare not lower our vigilance. The foundation of the economic stabilization is not solid enough... Under the backdrop of a persistent global financial crisis as well as a new situation and problems in the economy, we must make preparations for dealing with difficulties and challenges over the long term."

More than 2,200 delegates to the congress took a day off on Saturday, two days after Hu's opening speech. They spent Friday holding public debates on the speech at which they read out bits they particularly liked. Reuters reporters heard no contrary opinion.

Hu will hand over his post as party chief to anointed successor Vice President Xi Jinping. The congress ends on Wednesday, after which the party's new Standing Committee, at the apex of power, will be unveiled.   Continued...