China estimates this year’s growth slowed to 7.6 percent

China estimates this year’s growth slowed to 7.6 percent

BEIJING - The Associated Press
China estimates this year’s growth slowed to 7.6 percent

A general view of luxury residential apartments The Arch at the reclaimed West Kowloon in Hong Kong.

China’s economic growth is likely to come in at 7.6 percent this year, according to a cabinet report cited by the official Xinhua news agency, just above the government’s target of 7.5 percent and slightly below last year’s 7.7 percent.

Xu Shaoshi, head of China’s top economic planning body, told lawmakers in a briefing on the report uncertainties remain in the global economic recovery, and the international market has failed to produce strong demand, Xinhua said late on Dec. 25. Domestically, higher labor and environmental costs for enterprises pose challenges, he added.

“We cannot deny a downward pressure on economic growth,” Xinhua quoted Xu as saying. Xu is head of the National Development and Reform Commission.

The forecast is in line with analysts’ predictions of around 7.6-7.7 percent in 2013, but still puts China’s growth near the weakest pace since the Asian 1997-98 financial crisis.

Stability rather than fast growth remains the watchword as President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang seek to push through sweeping plans to restructure China’s economy so it is driven by consumption and services rather than exports and investment.

Economic data for November showed sustained momentum from a mid-year pick-up into the final quarter, indicating the economy was on track to reach this year’s official growth target.

Sources at top government think tanks told Reuters this week that for 2014, China will likely use the same 7.5 percent growth target it set for this year.

The cabinet report also said that China will further enhance interest-rate flexibility and coordination on using various policies, including for fiscal, monetary, industrial, land use and environmental ones, Xinhua said.

The government will carefully deal with the issue of local government debt while ensuring reasonable needs for liquidity, the report said. Official figures for fourth-quarter and 2013 gross domestic product will be announced next month.