Leaders to endorse lower growth targets

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    BEIJING- China’s leaders are poised to endorse a lower economic growth target for Beijing’s next five-year plan compared with 2016-2020, as authorities navigate growing challenges fuelled by a deepening rift with the United States, policy sources said.

    President Xi Jinping and other leaders are expected to discuss and approve China’s economic and social development blueprint for 2021-2025 at a key Communist Party conclave in October, probably in the second half of the month, the sources told Reuters.

    Policymakers believe that setting a five-year growth target is vital for steering the world’s second-largest economy past the ‘middle income trap’, the sources said, after internal debate over whether it should abandon such targets to enable more flexibility.

    The target also keeps local governments focused on development goals at a time of a deepening rift between China and the United States over a broad range of issues, they said.

    “There will be an economic target. Where is the direction of development if there is no such anchor?” said one source who is involved in the debate.

    Government think tanks and economists have made recommendations for average annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth targets including “around 5 percent”, 5-5.5 percent to 5-6 percent, the sources said.

    China is targeting average annual growth of over 6.5 percent for the 13th five-year plan that ends this year.

    China’s State Council Information Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.