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UPDATED: March 19, 2010 NO. 12 MARCH 25, 2010
An Urgent Task

An 8-percent goal for GDP growth appeared again in the government's work report delivered earlier this month by Premier Wen Jiabao at the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature. But this year's "8-percent" means more than maintaining the growth momentum, which clearly implies ensuring the quality of growth, and focusing on transforming the model of economic development and adjusting the economic structure.

Wen's remarks aroused heated discussions on how to accomplish this task in and outside this year's sessions of the NPC and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country's top political advisory body. Actually, it is not the first time the Central Government set this tone—but it is the first time it attracted so much attention.

The Central Government realized the problems with its development model and imbalances in the economic structure several years ago when the country's economy was still on the fast track. The economy was mainly propped up by exports and investments instead of domestic consumption. Economic development was realized at the cost of consuming vast amounts of energy and resources, and destroying the environment. The regional gap and urban-rural gap have been widening.

The Central Government has reiterated the need to transform the development model and rebalance the economy almost each year, but these problems have still been overshadowed, to some extent, by the benefits brought by robust GDP growth, especially the doubt-digit growth from 2003 to 2007.

The sweeping financial crisis thoroughly exposed these problems. Even so, the government's bailout plan helped the country secure an 8.7-percent growth last year. But the unsolved problems are posing threats to the sustainable development of the country's economy. "We urgently need to transform the model of economic development," Premier Wen said in the government work report.

Premier Wen's report placed this issue second among the government's eight major tasks for this year, along with a detailed breakdown, which includes: restructuring and revitalization in key industries; fostering emerging industries; promoting the development of small and medium-sized enterprises; raising the proportion of the service sector; conserving energy and reducing emissions; and balancing regional development. The six aspects constitute a specific guideline for transforming the development model and adjusting the economic structure for this year and beyond.

The 8-percent GDP growth rate seems to be within China's reach this year, but the key to growth—ensuring quality by transforming the development model and adjusting the economic structure—seems much more complicated, and needs long-term and continuous efforts.

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