China likely to maintain 7% growth for 20 years

BEIJING — China has lowered its 2015 economic growth target to about 7 percent, a growth pace which analysts said could be maintained for 20 years as the country continues to enjoy huge development potential.

Addressing the opening of the annual session of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature, Premier Li Keqiang said the target, down from last year’s 7.5 percent, is in line with efforts to create a ”moderately prosperous society.”

Actual economic growth last year was 7.4 percent, the lowest since 1990.

”If China’s economy can grow at this rate for a relatively long time, we will secure a more solid material foundation for modernization,” Li said.

Lu Feng, a professor with the Peking University’s National School of Development, said the 7-percent target, though the lowest in more than a decade, still represents a medium-high-level of growth and the Chinese economy has the potential to maintain the speed over the next 20 years.

Between 1978 and 2013, annual growth of the Chinese economy averaged close to 10 percent. However, the ”good old days” had to end, with growth decelerating to 7.7 percent in 2012 and 2013.

To defuse problems and avoid falling into the ”middle-income trap” while achieving modernization, China must rely on development, which requires an appropriate growth rate, the premier said in his government work report delivered to the top legislature.

With the Chinese economy entering a ”new normal,” policy makers have been trying to balance the need to cushion the economy’s slowdown with monetary and fiscal support measures against long-term goals.

In order to realize the country’s development goals set for 2020, ensure employment and avoid financial and fiscal risks, it is imperative for China to maintain a medium-high-level of growth and achieve a medium-high-level of development, Justin Yifu Lin, former chief economist and senior vice president of the World Bank, said.

The country has promised to double GDP achieved in 2010 by 2020, to achieve this a year-on-year expansion rate of 6.8 percent from 2014 through 2020 would be sufficient, according to Lin’s calculations.

A fluctuation of 0.2-percent higher or lower will be acceptable for the 7-percent estimate, said Zhu Baoliang, an economist with the State Information Center, a government think tank.

Li said China still holds vast potential with technological innovation, industrial upgrades, environmental improvement and urbanization.

China will develop ”twin engines” to drive development, pairing entrepreneurship and innovation with an increased supply of public goods and services, according to the government work report. It also aims to deepen reforms, boost domestic consumption and continue to streamline government administration.

”In a nutshell, China has the potential to maintain a medium-high-level of growth for 20 years, but it can only be achieved with efforts to comprehensively deepen reforms and ensure a stable external environment,” Lu said.