STATE Planning Minister Chen Jinhua has pledged to strengthen the role of market mechanisms during the period of the Ninth Five-Year Plan (1996-2000). In an interview with Xinhua (the New China News Agency), he stressed that the plan would be different from all previous plans since it would be 'the first one to be tied to the requirement of a socialist market economy'. Beijing has been criticised by foreign investors for exercising too much control in areas such as prices and allocation of raw materials. But Mr Chen claimed that after 16 years of reform and the open-door policy, a 'market economy structure' had been set up in China. 'The market, guided by the state's macro-economic policies, will be the key to the use of resources and production in state planning over the next five years and beyond,' Mr Chen said. He hinted that since most resources in China were allocated by the market, the country had departed from classic central planning. 'Goals of the Ninth Five-Year Plan will be based upon scientific analysis of the market, and macro-economic control policies will be carried out by governmental departments and provide guidance for enterprise management,' he said. The Communist Party Central Committee has suggested that the gross national product should grow at an average annual rate of eight per cent over the next five years, compared to 11.7 per cent from 1991 to 1995. 'The plan will lay out the state's development strategy and industrial policies, identify major projects, and give priority to those projects in state budgets and bank lending,' he said. State enterprise reform has always been a difficult task for Chinese officials but Mr Chen believed that once the market mechanism was fully developed, the state would no longer intervene in their management and would become a limited force in micro-economic activities.