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China economy will not have a 'hard landing', says Premier Li
[BEIJING] China's economy will not have a "hard landing", Premier Li Keqiang said Wednesday, despite widespread fears that the government will have difficulty managing slowing economic growth.
"We have long-term confidence in the Chinese economy and this confidence isn't without a foundation," Mr Li told once-a-year annual press conference at the end of the annual session of the Communist-controlled legislature.
"As long as we persist with reform and opening up, China's economy won't have a hard landing." China's rubber stamp parliament approved an economic roadmap for the next five years and a charity law just before Mr Li spoke.
As the balloting started in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing a voice boomed over a loudspeaker asking delegates to press the voting device. Thousands of arms in suit jackets reached across the tables simultaneously.
Votes at the National People's Congress are normally overwhelming approvals of measures decided long in advance by the ruling Communist party.
There were 2,778 'yes' votes for the 13th Five Year Plan, or 97.27 per cent of the total, the official Xinhua news agency reported, and 2,636 in favour of the charity law - 92.49 per cent.
The five-year plan, a blueprint for economic and social development, pledged to grow the world's second-largest economy by an average of at least 6.5 per cent a year over the 2016-2020 period.
Such plans are a legacy of China's command economy era but still guide policymakers at all levels of government.
Cracks in the economy are already showing as growth slows. Thousands of miners went on strike in northeastern China to protest unpaid wages, amid fears of mass layoffs as the government seeks to restructure lumbering state-owned industries.
A human resources and social security ministry official said last month the government plans to lay off about 1.8 million workers in the steel and coal industries.
But on Wednesday, Mr Li worked to dispel fears. "We have chosen the two sectors of coal and steel to make breakthroughs, and at the same time avoid a massive wave of layoffs," he said.
According to the plan, gross domestic product (GDP) is set to go from 67.7 trillion yuan (S$14.4 trillion) last year to more than 92.7 trillion yuan in 2020.
It also seeks to significantly reduce poverty by 2020. Officials have declared charitable organisations essential to achieving the goal and hope to encourage more giving with the charity law.
As the country's economy has grown to the world's second-largest, charitable giving has lagged, with the country ranking 144th out of 145 countries for giving, according to a study last year by the Charities Aid Foundation.
Chinese citizens donated just US$16 billion in 2014, according to the most recent data from the China Charity Information Centre - less than 0.2 per cent of annual GDP.
China's official news agency Xinhua said the new law was intended to "recruit help from good Samaritans in realising the 2020 poverty alleviation target".