03/16/2015, 00.00
CHINA
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Li Keqiang ends NPC with reassuring words, despite tough times, 7 per cent growth expected

China's prime minister met world media at the end of the National People's Congress, but did not mention Hong Kong democracy, Taiwan, Tibet, is plannedbe expected. China will focus on e-commerce.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - China can expect difficulties meeting its growth target but will press ahead with "painful reforms" to cut red tape and spur growth through innovation, said Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang at a press conference yesterday to mark the end of the annual meeting of the National People's Congress (NPC).

More than in previous years, this session was kept under tight wrap. The 3,000 or so delegates that filled the Great Hall of the People, near Tiananmen Square, have been tight-lipped. The Communist Party's propaganda department warned them that leaks would not be tolerated.

The prime minister, who is responsible for economic affairs, has lowered the growth forecast to 7 per cent this year, down from 7.4 per cent last year, a goal that he believes feasible.

"The good news is that in the past couple of years we did not resort to massive stimulus measures for economic growth," Li said. "That has made it possible for us to have fairly ample room to exercise macro-economic regulation, and we still have a host of policy instruments at our disposal."

In the past four months, China's has used a number of those instruments. The central bank has cut benchmark interest rates and lowered banks' reserve requirement ratio to jumpstart growth.

However, such steps appear to have had little impact so far on China's US$ 10 trillion economy, the second largest in the world after the United States.

In speaking to reporters, Li stressed the importance of innovation and e-commerce as new engines of growth, but otherwise offered few details on how the China's economy would go forward, except to paraphrase recent clichés.

"We need to position ourselves to where the winds blow," he said. "If we catch this wind of the internet, the Chinese economy will fly". The reference here is to an aphorism popular among tech executives that "even pigs can fly if they catch the right wind".

In his press conference, Li Keqiang shied away from a number of important policy issues.

As the South China Morning Post noted, the prime minister did not respond to reporters' questions about Hong Kong's Occupy Central protest, the turbulence in Tibet and Xinjiang, human rights, anti-terrorism in China, territorial disputes with Asia-Pacific and Southeast Asian nations, international trade, and reforms of state industries.

Mr Li did answer, evasively, questions about pollution regulation and their application to national oil companies, government population controls, Chinese tourists flocking to Japan to buy goods, as well as relations with and investment in Taiwan.

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