Shanghai has become the first big city or provincial government to drop economic growth targets from its annual work report, a landmark break from the country's decades-long obsession with GDP. Delivering his work report to the full session of the municipal legislature, which opened yesterday, Mayor Yang Xiong said the goal for Shanghai's economy this year was simply to "maintain steady growth while introducing structural optimisation and achieving better quality and higher efficiency". Yang added that the government aimed to create 500,000 jobs and keep registered unemployment below 4.5 per cent. Both President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang have cautioned officials publicly for the past two years against benchmarking their performance by GDP numbers alone, a practice some analysts blame for environment degradation and social grievances. In the past two years, Shanghai has lowered its growth target from 8 per cent to 7.5 per cent. Yang said in his report that the city's growth rate slowed further to 7 per cent last year. Bank of Communications chief economist Lian Ping said the end of the GDP target meant Shanghai was no longer focusing most of its efforts on economic growth. "Instead, it's paying more attention to the quality and efficiency of the economy, and, as the mainland's financial and economic hub, to improving the way it serves the Yangtze River Delta and the whole country," Lian said. Zhu Lijia, public policy professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, said the decision was a wise move and could prompt other local governments - and maybe even the central government - to follow suit. "The gap between the eastern and western regions is so big, so I have always thought that giving a national growth rate is meaningless," Zhu said. "Now that Shanghai has started [a new approach] the central government could officially omit [the growth target]." Yang also used the report to lay out Shanghai's plan to realise cross-border yuan clearing and develop high-value-added shipping services. The city would also prepare for the new Disney theme park and supporting infrastructure, including an addition to subway line 11. But he gave no timetable. Shanghai's Communist Party boss, Han Zheng, told a legislature panel that the city had much soul searching to do on managing public safety after the fatal New Year's Eve stampede. Han also told cadres from Pudong district, which has been included in the city's expanded free-trade zone, to be at the forefront of national reform.