China may revise down its annual economic growth target for 2020 in response to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, but will still not give up the overall target of maintaining economic growth “in a reasonable range”, according to a Chinese government researcher. The Chinese government has never officially published its goal for 2020, but it is widely expected that the specific gross domestic product (GDP) growth target for 2020 would be “around 6 per cent”, marking a potential slight slowdown from 6.1 per cent growth in 2019 but enough to achieve Beijing’s grand goal of doubling the size of its economy in 2020 from 2010. China’s 2020 growth target was originally to be released during Premier Li Keqiang’s government work report at the National People’s Congress, but the March 5 annual parliamentary meeting is set to be postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. “There will definitely be adjustments. For the central government, it hasn’t defined what the ‘reasonable range’ should be after the outbreak of coronavirus. People are still watching how the outbreak will develop and influence the economy,” Zhang Yansheng, the chief research fellow at the Beijing-based think tank, the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges, told the South China Morning Post on Tuesday. As for the final GDP target figure, we have to be true to facts. The GDP target was not a compulsory requirement but a soft forecast figure Zhang Yansheng “As for the final GDP target figure, we have to be true to facts. The GDP target was not a compulsory requirement but a soft forecast figure – strictly speaking, a forecast figure could be revised three or four times in a year.” Zhang, though, referenced the fact that 29 of China provincial-level regions, out of a total of 31, had published their 2020 economic growth targets at the Central Economic Work Conference in December. “The direction and the goals are clear. It’s not the case that people have not known what they should do this year,” added Zhang, who is an adviser to China’s economic policymakers. President Xi Jinping has repeatedly said over the last two weeks that China will still strive to achieve its economic and social development goals for 2020 despite the outbreak, which has claimed over 1,800 lives and infected over 70,000 people, and remain on course to build the country into a “comprehensively well-off society”. One key aspect of that vision is that China will double the size of its GDP in 2020 from 2010, which would require a minimum 5.6 per cent growth rate in 2020, although Beijing has never clearly defined the full details of the goal. On Tuesday, Ren Hongbin, vice-chairman of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council, said that the annual production goals and reform tasks set earlier in the year for state-owned enterprises would also not change despite the outbreak. “The impact of the epidemic is temporary and phased, will not change the long-term positive fundamentals of the Chinese economy,” he said. We should neither view 6 per cent as a red line nor take doubling the GDP size as a bottom line Song Xiaowu Before the country fell into an economic standstill around the extended Lunar New Year holiday as the virus spread from the city of Wuhan, economists and analysts have been engaged in a heated debate over whether China needs to keep its growth rate above 6 per cent in 2020. Song Xiaowu, former president of the China Society of Economic Reform, a state-backed think tank, said at a forum on Saturday that China’s GDP growth rate could drop to 3 per cent in the first quarter and 5 per cent for the whole of 2020. “We should neither view 6 per cent as a red line nor take doubling the GDP size as a bottom line,” said Song, in a speech published by the China Development Research Foundation, who organised the forum. Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. Offer valid until 31 March 2020.