China cuts GDP target, slows defense budget growth amid USA spats

08 March, 2019, 10:28 | Author: Mary Valdez
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping left and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang right at the opening session of China's National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Tuesday

With this year's increase, China's defence spending moved closer to the $200 billion mark, making it the highest spender on defence after the United States.

Beijing has also stepped up its rhetoric against any independence movements in self-ruled Taiwan and continues to assert its vast territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea and East China Sea.

To help shore up the economy, China's fiscal policy will become "more forceful", Li said, with the government pencilling in cuts of almost 2 trillion yuan (RM1.2 trillion) in taxes and fees for companies.

According to the plan, Chinese inflation will accelerate to about 3 percent this year from 2.1 percent in 2018.

In preparation for a "tough economic battle ahead", Keqiang also promised tax cuts worth 2 trillion yuan ($298 billion) for the year.

In an apparent nod to the United States, with which China has been talking to strike a trade deal, Li emphasized that Beijing will proceed with its "reform and opening-up" policy, created to develop a market economy under the ruling Communist Party.

Mr. Li said the Central government budget deficit would rise from 2.6% of total economic output to 2.8%, reflecting higher spending to stimulate the economy.

The impact of trade conflict has prompted Chinese CEOs to become less reliant on the USA and instead look for growth opportunities elsewhere, said Frank Lyn, PwC China and Hong Kong Markets Leader.

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Premier Li Keqiang told the opening session of China's annual National People's Congress (NPC) that the government is targeting growth of 6 per cent to 6.5 per cent this year, lowering its range from last year.

Sam Roggeveen, visiting fellow at the Strategic and Defense Studies Center at Australian National University, said the budget figure marked a "substantial increase" in the size of China's military.

At a press conference ahead of the parliamentary session, National People's Congress spokesman Zhang Yesui pointed out that China's defence spending has maintained single-digit growth since 2016, and accounted for 1.3 per cent of GDP a year ago, while the defence budgets of other major developed countries took up 2 per cent or more.

Further cuts to the required reserves ratio for smaller banks are planned, according to the work report. In 2018, 17 provinces set lower targets.

The premier promised to "promote China-US trade negotiations", but gave no details of talks aimed at ending the fight with President Donald Trump over Beijing's technology ambitions and complaints it steals or pressures companies to hand over technology. China will work toward mutually beneficial cooperation, win-win development and settling trade disputes through discussions as equals, the report says.

The employment rate is one alternative indicator to GDP growth that economic planners have put added emphasis on in recent months due to its importance for maintaining social stability.

Separately, China's top banking regulator said on Tuesday Beijing could "absolutely" reach an agreement with the United States on opening up its financial sector, even as the country's commerce minister admitted talks with Washington had been hard.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday he thought both nations were "on the cusp" of a deal to end their trade war.



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