China will not set a target to double gross domestic product (GDP) from 2021, a senior Communist Party official said on Thursday, as top leaders look to high-quality growth in the long term.
Yang Weimin, vice minister of the Office of the Central Leading Group on Financial and Economic Affairs, told a news conference the government will not solely pursue economic growth and will emphasize the quality of its growth.
A shift away from the kinds of ambitious long-term growth targets Chinese policymakers have set around key leadership summits would be a departure from past practice and mark a new strategy for longer-term economic development.
China aims to double GDP and per capita income by 2020 from 2010 levels, a target set in 2012, and growth is on track to hit those goals.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and many economists have urged Beijing to lower or do away with official growth targets altogether to reduce the country's reliance on debt-fueled stimulus and get higher quality growth.
In the opening speech of a key twice-a-decade Communist Party Congress this week, President Xi Jinping said China would deepen economic and financial reforms and further open its markets to foreign investors as it looks to move from high-speed to high-quality growth.
Xi set bold long-term goals for China's development, envisioning it as a modern socialist country by 2035, and a modern socialist "strong power" with leading influence on the world stage by 2050.
However, this week's congress did not include any public announcements about new economic growth targets. Some analysts believe the government will continue to set annual growth targets through to 2020.
Yang said China will focus on preventing "major risks" in the economy, fighting poverty and pollution by 2020, and that the party congress will no longer set a target to double GDP from 2021.
"The main contradiction of our society has changed and our country's economic development has been shifted to high-quality growth from high-speed growth," Yang said.
"We will not solely pursue economic growth, but will achieve growth by enhancing quality, efficiency and changing growth drivers."
China's economy will likely grow 6.8 percent in 2017, topping the state target and accelerating for the first time in seven years, a Reuters poll showed, as Beijing walks a tightrope by containing debt and property risks without stunting economic growth.
China's growth target for this year is around 6.5 percent and some analysts expect the government to keep the target in 2018.