China's economic planners met in Beijing yesterday to set goals for next year and work out ways to prevent the world's fastest-growing economy from overheating. 'High-ranking Chinese officials gathered on Tuesday morning for the 2006 Central Economic Work Conference,' Xinhua said. The annual event has served as a crucial mechanism for the Communist Party's decision-making Central Committee in running China's economy. The Politburo convened a meeting last week to set the agenda for the conference. The conference was expected to set policies for promoting consumption and innovation-based industries, easing China's reliance on investment and export-driven manufacturing, and preventing economic overheating, Xinhua said. Zhao Xijun, a vice-dean of Renmin University's School of Finance, said: 'The government should act to stimulate private consumption as weak domestic demand has been a deep-rooted issue facing the economy in the past few years.' President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao were expected to preside over the meeting, attended by cabinet ministers with economic or financial portfolios, officials from top state-owned enterprises and regional leaders. In a special report previewing the annual conference, Xinhua highlighted excessive growth in credit, investment and the mainland's trade surplus as three main challenges facing the economy at a time when Beijing is trying to tilt economic growth away from exports and investment and towards household consumption. Xinhua said the accumulation of China's foreign exchange reserves was complicating monetary policy operations and adding to pressure on exchange-rate policy. The conference is also expected to consider appeals by provincial leaders for an easing of curbs on bank lending because many regional manufacturing and infrastructure projects have ground to a halt due to central government orders that excessive capital spending be reined in.