China Economy

China's GDP growth target of over 6% is easy to reach – and that's not a bad thing, analysts say

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Key Points
  • China's growth target for 2021 is not particularly meaningful because it is well within reach for the country, two analysts told CNBC this week.
  • "It almost does the same thing as not having a growth target on there because it's such an easy target to hit," said Michael Hirson, Eurasia Group's practice head for China and Northeast Asia.
  • Addressing reporters at the close of the annual parliamentary meeting on Thursday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said: "By setting the GDP growth target at above 6%, we have left possibilities open, which means in actual delivery, there may be even faster growth."
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China's GDP goal is an 'easy target to hit': Eurasia Group

China's target of more than 6% growth for 2021 is not very meaningful because it can be easily reached — but that's not necessarily a bad thing, analysts told CNBC this week.

"It almost does the same thing as not having a growth target on there because it's such an easy target to hit," said Michael Hirson, Eurasia Group's practice head for China and Northeast Asia.

Simon Baptist, chief economist at The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), echoed the same sentiment.

"It will easily be met," he told CNBC's "Street Signs Asia" on Thursday. "It's sort of a target that you have when you don't really want to have a target."

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China's economy could grow around 8.5% in 2021, EIU economist says

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced last week that the country is aiming for economic expansion of more than 6% this year. He was speaking at the opening ceremony of China's National People's Congress.

Addressing reporters on Thursday evening, at the close of the annual parliamentary meeting, Li said China's target was not low. The 2021 target should match that of 2022 in order to avoid large gyrations, he said.

"By setting the GDP growth target at above 6%, we have left possibilities open, which means in actual delivery, there may be even faster growth," the premier said.

The EIU predicts that China's growth will be around 8.5% this year, more than 2 percentage points higher than the official target, according to Baptist.

Focus on quality

To be clear, a goal that is easy to reach is not pointless, analysts said.

Eurasia's Hirson said it is consistent with China's desire to prioritize quality over quantity.

"It drives home a message to local officials and to the rest of the system: Don't stretch for growth target, focus on quality of growth and I think that's exactly right," he told CNBC's "Street Signs Asia" on Thursday.

Additionally, he noted that the country's five-year plan doesn't have an average growth target, which shows a "continued deemphasis on hitting rigid" numbers.

Baptist from the EIU said previous growth targets have caused "dangerous imbalances in China's economy" in the past, including a build up in debt as the country pushed certain sectors to reach those "very high targets."

However, since the number for 2021 is low, it's unlikely to further fuel these problems, he added.

"In fact, the fact that it's so far below what China is likely to achieve just at a canter, indicates that economic policy is going to be a little bit tight in China and that fiscal, monetary support will be coming down," he said.