Mar. 14 - Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says Beijing will speed up reforms to cushion risks; 2012 growth target lowered to ease external pressures, aid reforms. Arnold Gay reports.
It isn't the quantity, but the quality of growth that matters. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says the growth target was lowered this year to deliver sustainable growth, and ease external pressure on the economy. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) CHINESE PREMIER WEN JIABAO SAYING: "The economic slowdown in China is mainly the result of our proactive macro controls. One should recognise that China's economy is under downward pressure due to the contraction of the external market caused by the European debt crisis. " Speaking at his last National People's Congress news conference, Wen says China will intensify efforts to reform its economy, its currency regime, and allow the yuan to float more freely But he also hinted that after appreciating 30 percent since 2005, the current phase of one-way yuan appreciation may be over. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) CHINESE PREMIER WEN JIABAO SAYING: "China's RMB exchange rate is possibly near a balanced level. We will step-up exchange rate reforms, especially in increasing two-way fluctuations." Addressing the property sector, Wen ruled out any immediate change in existing property curbs. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) CHINESE PREMIER WEN JIABAO SAYING: "Now, I can clearly tell everyone, home prices are still far from returning to reasonable levels, and as such, regulation cannot be relaxed. If they are relaxed, our achievements will have come to naught." Premier Wen retires next year along with President Hu Jintao. But recent data suggests the economic headwinds they face at home and abroad in their final year in power, will complicate the ruling Communist Party's focus on maintaining stability. Foreign demand for goods from China's vast factory sector has suffered amid Europe's debt crisis and weak U.S. consumer sentiment. This left China with its largest trade deficit in 10 years in February. Inflation is easing but bank lending, retail sales and industrial output growth have all cooled more than expected. Economists expect growth in 2012 to be the slowest in the decade Wen and Hu have been in power. Arnold Gay, Reuters.