Mainland leadership is expected to open a crucial national economic conference on Monday, reviewing this year's economic activities and mapping out growth targets and reform plans for next year.
Premier Zhu Rongji is expected to chair the high-level conference, which runs until Wednesday, against a backdrop of a slowing economy characterised by falling exports and foreign direct investment as well as rising unemployment and stalled state-owned enterprise reform.
Beijing-controlled Ta Kung Pao yesterday quoted unidentified sources as saying the conference would set economic growth targets of 7 to 7.5 per cent for next year.
The benchmark retail price index is expected to be set at 2 per cent and the consumer price index at 3 per cent, with fixed-asset investment at about 15 per cent.
The newspaper said economic uncertainties at home and abroad meant those targets would remain preliminary, leaving room for adjustments early next year when the mainland opens its full plenary session of the National People's Congress for final deliberation and approval.
Beijing has set a GDP growth target of 8 per cent for this year. In the first nine months, the economy grew 7.2 per cent although it picked up pace to rise 7.6 per cent in the third quarter.
Economists have warned the mainland would find it hard to meet the target despite government plans to pour 200 billion yuan (about HK$186.06 billion) into the economy.
Standard Chartered Bank senior economist Liao Qun said Mr Zhu was likely to make an economic growth forecast, rather than a target, giving the government more room to manoeuvre.