China targets economic growth of 6.5 to 7 percent

Beijing, March 5 (IANS) China targets economic growth rate of 6.5 to 7 percent in 2016, and an average annual growth rate of at least 6.5 percent through 2020, according to a government work report available to media on Saturday before the opening of the annual parliamentary session.

Last year’s target was around seven percent, and China registered an actual 6.9 percent growth, the slowest expansion in a quarter of a century, Xinhua news agency reported.

This year’s target is aligned with China’s goal of finishing building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and takes into consideration the need to advance structural reform, the report said.

“It will also help guide market expectations and keep them stable. The aim of maintaining stable growth is primarily to ensure employment and promote the people’s wellbeing, and a growth rate of between 6.5 percent and 7 percent will allow for relatively full employment,” according to the report.

The country’s urban job creation target remains at least 10 million. Last year’s 6.9-percent growth added 13.12 million new urban jobs.

“…China’s economic output had exceeded 60 trillion yuan. Every percentage point of GDP growth today is equivalent to 1.5 percentage points of growth five years ago or 2.5 percentage points of growth ten years ago. The larger the economy grows, the greater the difficulty of achieving growth,” the report said.

A brief outlook for China’s 13th Five-Year Plan was also included in the report. The country expects an average annual growth rate of at least 6.5 percent from 2016 through 2020, when China will have a gross domestic product of 90 trillion yuan.

China announces 7.6-percent defence budget rise

 China on Saturday announced the country’s lowest defence budget increase in six years in the wake of rising economic headwinds and last year’s massive drawdown of service people.

According to a budget report to the national legislature annual session, the government plans to raise the 2016 defence budget by 7.6 percent to about $146 billion.

The increase last year was 10.1 percent, reports Xinhua.

The fresh raise will make the world’s second largest economy the second largest defence spender, both next to the US which, in the exact words of US President Barack Obama, spends more on military “than the next eight nations combined”.

Obama proposed a $534-billion defence budget package for the 2016 fiscal year, about 3.6 times China’s budget this year. This year’s new increase will do little to close that gap.

It would, however, break a multi-year run of double-digit increases in China’s defence budget, and mark the slowest growth in six years.

China’s population to reach 1.42 billion by 2020

China’s population will be about 1.42 billion by the end of 2020, according to the draft outline of a five-year plan released on Saturday.

China had a population of 1.37462 billion by the end of 2015, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics, Xinhua news agency reported.

The country will further adhere to the family planning policy as a basic state policy, and fully carry out the two-child policy, said the draft outline of the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) submitted to the national legislature for examination.

Imbalanced sex ratio, one of the highest among the world, will be addressed with comprehensive measures, the draft said.

Reproductive health care, and maternal and child health care will be improved, and related policies will be revised to adapt to the implementation of the two-child policy, according to the draft.

Family planning service management, and birth registration service system will be improved, the draft added.

Efforts addressing an aging population and the decrease of working age population will be carried out, it said.

China to create 10 million jobs in 2016

China aims to create at least 10 million new urban jobs and keep the registered urban unemployment rate within 4.5 percent this year, according to a government work report delivered by Premier Li Keqiang at the legislative annual session on Saturday.

Although the targets are unchanged from those for last year, meeting them this year is unlikely to be easy. Weighed down by property market downturn, industrial overcapacity and subdued global demand, the Chinese economy grew 6.9 percent last year, the slowest annual expansion in a quarter of a century.

The growth target for this year is in the range of 6.5 and 7 percent, Xinhua news agency reported.

China is in a painful economic transformation, switching from an investment-led model to one that relies on domestic consumption, services and innovation. To achieve this goal, the country is actively slimming down its bloated state-owned enterprises, especially in the coal and steel sectors.

According to preliminary forecasts, the two sectors will see a combined laid-off workers totalling 1.8 million.

To cushion the effect of job losses on families and society , the central government will allocate 100 $15.4 billion in two years to help laid-off workers find new jobs.

China’s fast growing service industry is expected to take the baton of job creation. The service sector accounted for 50.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product last year, the first time it exceeded the 50 percent level.

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