Work on a manufacturing line in a Hebei Province facility last month. China’s economy finished 2020 with 2.3% expansion.



Photo:

Xiaodong Chen/SIPA Asia /Zuma Press

BEIJING—Chinese leaders said they would target gross domestic product growth of 6% or more this year, a relatively modest goal that nonetheless signals continued optimism after a year in which the coronavirus eviscerated the global economy.

The growth target of 6% or more, announced Friday in Beijing by Premier

Li Keqiang,

is comfortably lower than most economists’ consensus expectations for the world’s second-largest economy to grow by 8% or more this year.

Even so, many economists had predicted that Beijing would forgo the numerical target altogether, after a year in which the uncertainties of the Covid-19 pandemic pushed China to drop its target for the first time since 1994.

China’s economy recovered relatively quickly from an initial outbreak centered in the Chinese city of Wuhan, and finished the year with an economic expansion of 2.3%, becoming the only major economy to report growth in 2020.

With growth momentum approaching pre-virus levels, Beijing policy makers have signaled that they plan to gradually withdraw stimulus measures and focus instead on reining in debt and heading off an emerging bubble in the real-estate market.

Mr. Li said in his annual government report on Friday that the government would seek to cut the fiscal deficit ratio target to 3.2% of China’s projected GDP this year, compared with a target of above 3.6% in 2020.

Beijing also plans to reduce the amount of debt that local governments are permitted to raise this year. China plans to let localities issue 3.65 trillion yuan in local government special-purpose bonds in 2021, lower than the 3.75 trillion yuan earmarked last year. The bonds are primarily used to fund infrastructure projects.

Mr. Li said China aims to keep consumer price inflation at around 3% in 2021, compared with last year’s 3.5% target and its actual increase of 2.5%.

The government also said it plans to create 11 million new jobs this year, higher than the new-jobs target of nine million for 2020. It also aimed to cap the urban surveyed jobless rate at 5.5% in 2021, compared with a ceiling of 6% in 2020.

Write to Jonathan Cheng at jonathan.cheng@wsj.com

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Appeared in the March 5, 2021, print edition as ‘Beijing Aims for 6% In GDP Growth.’

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