Asia

China Downgrades Economic Growth Target

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Against the political pageantry of the National People's Congress, China's Premier delivered his annual state-of-the-nation address. The headline figure: a growth target of 7.5 percent. It's the first time that's dipped below 8 percent since 2004.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now just as the U.S. economy seems to be picking up, China's is not. The Chinese government has downgraded its economic growth target to the slowest rate in eight years. China's premier says the country needs to boost consumer demand, and address what he calls unsustainable development.

NPR's Louisa Lim reports from Beijing.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LOUISA LIM, BYLINE: Against the political pageantry of the National People's Congress, China's premier delivered his annual state-of-the-nation address. The headline figure: a growth target of 7.5 percent. It's the first time that's dipped below eight percent since 2004.

A note of caution was clear in Premier Wen Jiabao's speech.

PREMIER WEN JIABAO: (Through Translator) China's economy is encountering new problems. There is downward pressure on economic growth. Prices remain high.

LIM: The quality of growth – rather than the quantity – is coming to the fore. Jeff Wasserstrom, the author of "China in the 21st Century," describes the shift in focus.

JEFF WASSERSTROM: There's been more emphasis recently, I think, on focusing on the ability to deliver stability. The emphasis on stability was often paired with an emphasis on deliver wow-factor developments, whether it was high growth rates or the fastest trains on earth. And I think in the last year, or so, we have seen some ways in which these symbols of hypermodernity have lost some of their luster.

LIM: This year sees spending on domestic security rise by 11.5 percent; a bigger rise than that of the defense budget. This could indicate fears of instability, ahead of a change in China's leadership later this year.

Louisa Lim, NPR News, Beijing.

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