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China sets 2018 GDP target at around 6.5%

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Beijing: China yesterday set its GDP growth rate for 2018 at around 6.5%, unchanged from last year, as the world's second largest economy aims to reduce risks to its financial system from a rapid build-up in debt.

While projecting a buoyant picture of the economy, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in his annual work report to the National People's Congress (NPC) exuded cautious optimism and refrained from increasing the growth target.

"The fundamentals of Chinese economy remain sound, and we have many policy tools at out disposal. We are fully capable of forestalling systemic risks," 63-year-old Li said in his 45-page work report.

China, which is trying hard to reshape its economy from being a dependent on dwindling exports to the one relying on domestic consumption, is still deriving much of its growth on the massive infrastructure building expanding its existing well laid out rail, road and air next work.

Li said this year China will see 732 billion yuan (about USD 115.6 billion) invested in railway construction and around 1.8 trillion yuan invested in highway and waterway projects; the scale of investment in ongoing water conservancy projects will reach one trillion yuan, he said.

The central and western regions will continue to be the priority for major infrastructure construction, he said. China will carry out a new round of major technology transformation and upgrading projects, he said. The central government budget will earmark 537.6 billion yuan (over USD 86 billion) for investment in 2018, an increase of 30 billion yuan from the last year.

Hikes defence budget to USD 175 bn
China yesterday announced an 8.1% hike in its defence budget in 2018 to a whopping USD 175 billion, over three times higher than that of India, as an increasingly assertive Beijing focused on the modernisation and reach of the country's military, amidst simmering disputes with its neighbours.

The announcement of  China increasing its military spending comes as President Xi Jinping, the commander-in- chief of the country's over 2-million-strong armed forces, focuses on cementing his status as the most powerful leader since Chairman Mao Zedong.

Signals hardened stance on Hong Kong, Taiwan
China signalled yesterday it was hardening its stance on dissent in Taiwan and Hong Kong, where it faces growing frustration with the increasingly authoritarian government of President Xi Jinping. In a report to the opening session of the annual National People's Congress in Beijing, Premier Li Keqiang warned China "will never tolerate any separatist schemes" in Taiwan, amid increasing tensions between the mainland and the self-ruled island.

The warning to the almost 3,000 members of the mostly ceremonial legislature followed the omission of language supporting the political autonomy of Hong Kong and Macau that had featured prominently in previous years.

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