According to the national statistics
bureau, the figures pointed to a “complex environment” both at home
It said the country’s economy had
“performed within the reasonable range” in the first half of 2019 but
that it faced “new downward pressure”.
While China watchers advise caution
with Beijing’s official gross domestic product numbers, the data is seen as a
useful indicator of the country’s growth trajectory.
Other data showed some signs of
improvement in the world’s second largest economy.
Industrial production rose 6.3% in
June from a year earlier, while retail sales rose 9.8% year-on-year – both
above forecasts in Reuters polls.
Slowing growth in China has raised
concerns about the potential knock-on effect on the global economy.
Earlier this year China announced
plans to boost spending and cut billions of dollars in taxes in an effort to
support the economy.
It has also moved to provide a
liquidity boost by reducing the amount of cash banks must hold in reserve.
The US-led trade war is another
factor weighing on growth.
While the US and China agreed to resume trade talks at a recent G20 summit
in Japan, they have already placed tariffs on billions of dollars worth of one
another’s goods, hurting businesses and casting a shadow over the world
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said recently that China’s debt had ballooned and was now equivalent to 234% of the total output. It said China needed to concentrate less on growth and instead help improve banks’ finances, among other efforts.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government says it has been taking steps to contain risky debt despite the impact that might have on economic growth – efforts the IMF said it recognized.
The government has promised to continue tackling local government debt, among other efforts, and on January 18 vowed to help state-owned enterprises “leverage and cut debt … and to repay their bonds on time this year”.
China’s strict anti-pollution measures, which were introduced across 28 cities in 2017, are also expected to hurt economic growth in the short term.
The measures have included shutting down or cutting back production at factories in heavy industry like cement and steel.
Households have also been asked to switch to natural gas and electricity from coal, in an effort to curb pollution.
However, this policy left millions without proper heating, and so was temporarily abandoned in December.
According to officials, Beijing’s air quality improved sharply in the winter of 2017. They also heralded their efforts as a “new reality” for China.
Li Keqiang said he would tackle state “zombie enterprises” producing more coal and steel than the market needed.
Similar pledges in the past have proved hard to fulfill.
More than 3,000 legislators are meeting in the Great Hall of the People.
The NPC and its advisory body hold ceremonial meetings every year known as “lianghui” or “two sessions”.
Image source Flickr
PM Li Keqiang described the world’s second-largest economy as a butterfly struggling to emerge from a chrysalis.
The premier said this transformation was filled with promise but also great pain.
Li Keqiang repeatedly paid tribute to Communist Party leader Xi Jinping and said that under the sound leadership of the Party, the Chinese people had the courage and ingenuity to overcome all difficulties.
His list of China’s difficulties ranged from the smog which blankets much of the country to the laziness of some government officials.
In a veiled reference to President Donald Trump’s complaints about China’s exchange rate and trade policies, PM Li Keqiang warned of a far more complicated global picture in the year ahead with China facing the threat of growing protectionism.
NPC leaders are tolerating slightly slower economic growth this year to give them more room to push through some painful reforms to deal with a rapid build-up in debt, Reuters reports.
On the subject of tackling China’s pollution issues, Li Keqiang pledged to “work harder” to address the issue exacerbated by heavy industry.
This year’s “lianghui” comes ahead of a major Chinese Communist Party congress, due to be held later this year.
That congress will confirm party chief and President Xi Jinping’s second term in office, as well as announce changes in the party’s top leadership.