Chinese leaders pledge stable currency, less financial risk
Concern about possible threats from rapidly rising debt
China’s leaders pledged yesterday to keep its currency stable and trim bloated heavy industry as they wrapped up an annual planning meeting amid pressure from US President-elect Donald Trump and European leaders over trade. Responding to concern about possible threats from rapidly rising debt, the official Xinhua News Agency said leaders at the three-day meeting also promised to reduce financial risks.
The reports suggested President Xi Jinping’s government plans no significant changes despite calls by reform advocates to move faster on pledges to make the world’s second-largest economy more productive by giving market forces a bigger role. There was no indication of concessions to pressure from Washington and Europe, which complain Beijing blocks access to its markets in violation of its free-trade commitments. Foreign companies complain Chinese regulators are trying to squeeze them out of technology and other promising industries.
Trump, who takes office in January, has vowed to press Beijing for action by imposing 45 percent tariffs on Chinese goods. Few economists expect him to go that far but any sanctions could hurt Chinese export industries that support millions of jobs. The Economic Work Conference, attended by Xi and other Communist Party leaders, is a throwback to China’s era of central planning but still plays a key role in directing development of the statedominated economy.
The Chinese leadership is trying to shore up economic growth while reducing reliance on debt that economists worry is dangerously high. Growth held steady at 6.7 percent over a year earlier in the quarter ending in September, propped up by a boom in real estate sales and credit growth. Forecasters expect growth to cool as regulators tighten controls to cool bank lending and housing costs.
Some economists and business groups say they expect no major new initiatives until after a Cabinet reshuffle following a congress of the ruling party late next year. That gathering might see the retirement of some figures from the party’s seven-member Standing Committee, China’s ruling inner circle, giving Xi a chance to fortify his already extensive powers by promoting allies.
The leadership promised to ensure the “basic stability” of the yuan, according to Xinhua. The currency has weakened against the dollar, prompting concern it might be allowed to fall further. Trump has accused Beijing of suppressing the yuan’s exchange rate to help its exporters. Economists say while that was true earlier, the Chinese central bank has spent heavily from its reserves in recent months to prop up the yuan’s value. Yesterday’s statement promised to press ahead with “supply-side structural reforms,” a reference to shutting down excess capacity in industries including steel and cement in which supply exceeds demand. European governments face complaints by steelworkers and others that a flood of low-cost Chinese exports threatens their jobs. US aluminum producers say they are being driven out of business by Chinese imports. — AP
BEIJING: A woman jumps for a photo near an LED ceiling displaying images of gold and jewelry. — AP