Beijing: Premier Li Keqiang said the Chinese economy is likely to grow between 6 percent and 6.5 percent in 2019, lower than last year’s 6.5 percent.
The government also aims to increase its defence spending by 7.5 percent to CNY1.190 trillion for this year, compared with a planned 8.1 percent rise in 2018.
Delivering the annual government work report at the opening session of China’s Parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), Li said the government planned to create 11 million new jobs in 2019, the same as last year’s target.
According to reports, last year, China created 13.61 million new jobs. “The government also aims to cap the urban jobless rate at 5.5 percent in 2019, unchanged from last year. In 2018, China’s urban jobless rate stood at 4.9 percent. China’s economy outperformed the official 2018 goal of around 6.5 percent by expanding 6.6 percent. A range target was also set for 2016 at 6.5-7 percent,” the official news agency, Xinhua said in a report.
Referring to the slowing economy and the ongoing trade war with the US, Li said: “A full analysis of developments in and outside China shows that in pursuing development this year, we will face a graver and more complicated environment as well as risks and challenges, foreseeable and otherwise, that are greater in number and size.”
In the context of the trade war, Li said China will continue to promote China-US trade negotiations.
“China will promote trade and investment liberalisation and facilitation. The country is committed to safeguarding economic globalisation and free trade, and is actively involved in the reform of the World Trade Organisation,” he said, quoting the report.
China is committed to mutually beneficial cooperation, win-win development and settling trade disputes through discussion as equals, Li said, adding: “We faithfully honor our commitments and are resolute in safeguarding our lawful rights and interests.”
“This year is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. It will be a crucial year for China as it endeavors to achieve the first centenary goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, the report says,” he said.
Meanwhile, China’s defence budget marked a lower increase compared to 2018. The 2019 defence budget will be 1.19 trillion yuan (about $ 177.61 billion)
The rate marks a fourth straight year for the budgeted growth rate to dip into the single digit since 2016, following five consecutive years of double-digit increases.
“China’s budgeted defence spending growth rate stood at 7.6 percent in 2016, 7 percent in 2017, and 8.1 percent in 2018,” a state media report said.
Describing China’s defence budget increase as reasonable and appropriate, Zhang Yesui, spokesperson for the annual session of the 13th NPC, said the raise aims to “meet the country’s demand in safeguarding national security and military reform with Chinese characteristics.”
On poverty alleviation, the government report said that China “vows to reduce its rural poor population by over 10 million in 2019.”
“The central government will specially allocate 126.095 billion yuan (18.82 billion U.S. dollars) to fund poverty alleviation, an increase of 18.9 percent, says a draft budget report to be submitted to the session,” it said.
China will do more to attract foreign investment in 2019, Li said. China will further relax controls over market access, shorten the negative list for foreign investment, and permit wholly foreign-funded enterprises to operate in more sectors, the report said.
“We will strengthen efforts to protect foreign investors’ legitimate rights and interests,” Li said, quoting the report.