Can provincial goals foretell China's economic future?

Updated: 2015-01-24 16:00


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BEIJING - With last year's 7.4 percent economic growth the slowest in 24 years, what now for the world's second largest economy?

Some clues may lie in provincial growth targets for 2015; most are slightly lower than the rates actually achieved last year, leaving space for structural changes.

Tibet's economy still relies heavily on investment and met its 12 percent target last year. It has set the same target this year, so far the highest announced. Last year, Tianjin, Chongqing, Xinjiang and Tibet, all had growth of 10 percent or above.

Heavily developed Guangdong and Zhejiang in the wealthy coastal region both grew at slightly more than 7.5 percent last year, and have set their goals at that level this year. Last year, Guangdong's foreign trade fell 2.5 percent, but it still accounted for a quarter of the national total.

A 7.5 percent goal reflect the province's contribution to the national economy while serving the need for structural adjustments, said Zhu Xiaodan, governor of Guangdong.

Hebei and Beijing are both aiming for 7 percent. The two realized 6.5 percent and 7.3 percent respectively last year. Hebei cut nearly 70 million tons of iron, steel and cement capacities and reduced coal consumption by 15 million tons and will continue structural adjustment and upgrades to traditional industries this year, said governor Zhang Qingwei.

Difficulties face Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning and Shanxi. In the first three quarters last year, GDP growth was 5.2 percent and 5.6 percent for Heilongjiang and Shanxi, much lower than their targets of 8.5 percent and 9 percent. The slowdown of energy industries in Heilongjiang due to the fall of oil and coal prices hit the province's economy hard last year.

Some impetus may come from three new free trade zones and regional development strategies. The Chinese government is committed to steady economic growth while the "new normal" of slower, better growth evolves into the simple "normal".