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China's richest man says time for government to abandon high growth rate 'fantasy'

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China's richest man said on Thursday the government needs to give up any "fantasy" of maintaining high economic growth rates, unusually bold comments at a time when Beijing is grappling to contain a market meltdown that has hammered global equities.

[BEIJING] China's richest man said on Thursday the government needs to give up any "fantasy" of maintaining high economic growth rates, unusually bold comments at a time when Beijing is grappling to contain a market meltdown that has hammered global equities.

Billionaire Wang Jianlin, speaking after his company Dalian Wanda Group said it had bought World Triathlon Corp (WTC) for US$650 million, added that the key was whether economic growth is"sustainable and safe". "China's economy needs to transform from relying on investment and exports to consumption. That's a painful process. If the transformation doesn't happen now, it would be even more painful in the future," Mr Wang said. "China needs to drop the fantasy of keeping a high growth rate of 7 or 8 per cent and just accept 6, 7 or even 5 per cent," Mr Wang said.

Fears that a deepening slowdown in China could hurt the global economy have rocked global commodities and stock markets.

China's economy is officially expected to expand around 7 per cent this year, the lowest in over two decades, but many observers believe it is growing at a much slower pace.

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Analysts have long harboured doubts on the credibility of China's GDP figures, if only because they can be produced just two weeks after the end of a quarter.

At an earnings conference in Hong Kong on Thursday, an executive at Mr Wang's Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties Co said the company planned to submit an application for a listing in Shanghai by early September.

Mr Wang told reporters in Beijing that the recent market meltdown does not influence Wanda's operations and he believed the company will surpass its targets for 2015. "What it influences is our psychology, our wealth effect, our wealth figures, or the price of shares held by me and other senior executives. That's a psychological effect," Mr Wang said.

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