China Announces ‘Over 6%’ Economic Growth Target, Tech Plans

BEIJING (AP) -
Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and Premier Li Keqiang arrive for the opening session of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Thursday, March 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

China’s top economic official announced a healthy growth target for the nation and its plans to become a more self-reliant technology leader amid tension with Washington and Europe over trade, Hong Kong and human rights.

The ruling Communist Party is aiming for economic growth “over 6%” as it rebounds from the coronavirus pandemic, Premier Li Keqiang said in a speech to China’s ceremonial legislature Friday. Some 3,000 delegates gathered for its annual two-week meeting, the year’s highest-profile political event, under intense security and anti-virus controls.

China became the only major country to grow last year, eking out a 2.3% expansion after the then-unprecedented step of shutting down most of its economy to fight the coronavirus.

Li vowed to “work faster to enhance our strategic scientific and technological capability” that communist leaders see as a path to prosperity and greater global influence. Those plans are threatened by tension with Washington over technology and security that prompted then-President Donald Trump to slap sanctions on China’s fledgling telecom and other tech industries.

The party will “regard scientific and technological self-reliance as a strategic support for national development,” Li said.

The premier said Beijing also will “improve the relevant systems” in Hong Kong “to safeguard national security” but gave no details of possible changes in the territory, where the ruling party is tightening control following pro-democracy protests.

The party used last year’s legislative session to impose a national security law on Hong Kong under which dozens of political activists have been arrested.

“We will resolutely guard against and deter external forces’ interference in the affairs of Hong Kong,” the premier said.

Li promised to pursue “green development” following President Xi Jinping’s pledge to ensure China’s carbon emissions peak by 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. That will require sharp increases in clean and renewable energy sources for the world’s second largest-economy.