Workers weld at a workshop of an automobile manufacturer in Qingzhou, East China’s Shandong Province, on March 1, 2022.
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BEIJING — China announced a gross domestic product growth target of “around 5.5%” for 2022, as an annual parliamentary meeting gets underway.
Premier Li Keqiang revealed the figure in a speech on Saturday morning local time. It is not unusual for the official GDP target to be approximate.
Other economic targets Li announced, for employment and inflation, were the same as last year’s.
However, he said the deficit-to-GDP ratio would be 2.8% this year, lower than last year’s 3.2%. He expects fiscal revenue to grow in 2022, and that the government can use profits from state-owned enterprises, allowing a spending increase of more than 2 trillion yuan ($316.5 billion) in 2022 over 2021.
China will target an unemployment rate in cities of “no more than 5.5%” and a consumer price index of “around 3%,” according to Li.
“A comprehensive analysis of evolving dynamics at home and abroad indicates that this year our country will encounter many more risks and challenges, and we must keep pushing to overcome them,” he said, according to an official English-language version of his remarks. “The harder things get, the more confident we must be, and the more solid steps we must take to deliver outcomes.”
Economists widely expected the GDP target to be set at about 5% or slightly higher. They want details about stimulus plans for an economy that has slowed down significantly.
Li said Saturday that to reach this year’s economic targets, China needs to pursue “prudent and effective macro policies,” with “flexible and appropriate” monetary policy. Li said the yuan’s exchange rate “will be kept generally stable at an adaptive, balanced level.”
China’s economic growth softened in the fourth quarter to a 4% year-on-year increase, despite full-year growth of 8.1%.
The country was the only major economy to grow in 2020, while the rest of the world struggled with the coronavirus pandemic.
But sluggish consumer spending has yet to fully recover from the pandemic, and fallout from Beijing’s regulatory crackdown on tech and real estate have dragged on growth. China’s stringent “zero-Covid” policy, with abrupt lockdowns and travel restrictions, has also weighed on the economy.
In the last two weeks, the heads of government ministries have spoken of plans for more economic support, especially for small businesses and consumers.
The “Two Sessions” is an annual meeting of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body, and the National People’s Congress legislature in Beijing.
While largely symbolic, the meetings draw delegates from around the country to approve and announce national economic policies for the year ahead. Those include targets for GDP growth, employment, inflation, deficit and government spending.
This year, the Two Sessions will last about a week, with proceedings set to wrap up on March 11.