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China sets 2024 economic growth target at around 5%

China sets 2024 economic growth target at around 5%

BEIJING - China on Tuesday set itself a gross domestic product growth target of around 5 percent for 2024 during the opening of an annual session of its parliament, with the Asian powerhouse striving to shore up its slowing economy amid a long-running property crisis. The economic growth goal is the same as the target for 2023. Last year, China's GDP expanded a real 5.2 percent from 2022 due partly to the previous year's low baseline caused by its stringent "zero-COVID" policy that involved citywide lockdowns. Chinese Premier Li Qiang speaks on the opening day of the weeklong National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2024. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo Premier Li Qiang said at the National People's Congress session that China accomplished its main economic development goals in 2023 despite "an unusually complex international environment" as he delivered a government policy direction report for 2024. The underlying trend of economic recovery and long-term growth remains unchanged and will remain so, the premier noted, adding, "On the other hand, we should not lose sight of worst-case scenarios and should be well prepared for all risks and challenges." In setting the 2024 growth target, Li said the government has taken into account the "need to boost employment and incomes and prevent and defuse risks." He added that achieving the goal "will not be easy," calling for hard work and the mobilization of a concerted effort. On Taiwan, which Beijing regards as part of its territory, Li said his country will be "firm in advancing the cause of China's reunification" with the self-ruled island. The mainland will "resolutely oppose" separatist activities aimed at "Taiwan independence" and external interference, he said. Cross-strait tensions have been rising since a deadly boat incident occurred near a remote Taiwanese island last month that claimed the lives of two Chinese fishermen. In May, the island's President-elect Lai Ching-te, whom Beijing has slammed as an independence advocate, will take office. China also announced it will increase its military spending in 2024 to 1.67 trillion yuan ($231 billion), a 7.2 percent increase from last year, in a budget report delivered at the parliament session. The rate of growth was the same as the year-on-year rise in 2023. On Monday, NPC spokesman Lou Qinjian defended the increase in the defense budget, saying it is "reasonable" and in line with the country's economic growth. "Compared with major military powers such as the United States, China's defense spending is quite low" in terms of its ratio to GDP and per-citizen expenditure, Lou said, adding that "China is committed to the path of peaceful development." Chinese President Xi Jinping claps after Premier Li Qiang's speech during the opening ceremony of the weeklong National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2024. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo Related coverage: China premier to skip parliament press event for 1st time since 1993

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