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China promises stimulus spending, sets no growth target

Last Updated May 21, 2020 at 7:20 pm PDT

Delegates bow their heads during the opening session of China's National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Friday, May 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, Pool)

BEIJING — China’s top economic official on Friday promised higher spending to revive its coronavirus-battered economy and curb surging job losses and said Beijing would set no growth target in order to focus on fighting the disease.

Premier Li Keqiang, in an annual report to China’s ceremonial legislature, warned that the battle against the virus “has not yet come to an end.” He called on the country to “redouble our efforts” to revive slumping economic growth.

Li said the government’s budget deficit will swell by 1 trillion yuan ($140 billion) to help meet targets including creating 9 million new urban jobs. That is in line with expectations of higher spending but only a fraction of the $1 trillion-plus stimulus packages launched or discussed by the United States, Japan and Europe.

Li said the ruling Communist Party was not announcing a growth target, a closely watched feature of his annual report, due to the “great uncertainty” of the epidemic.

China, where the pandemic began in December, was the first economy to reopen but is struggling to revive activity. Forecasters say job losses this year could exceed 20 million.

The Associated Press