Several of China’s provincial governments have released their economic growth targets for 2021, but policy advisers say that as in 2020, the central government is unlikely to set a national goal for the year. Beijing said last week that the Chinese economy expanded by 2.3 per cent in 2020 and that it would maintain its support policies to ensure growth remained at a reasonable level in 2021, despite the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic and its disputes with the United States. Observers say the reason they do not expect Beijing to set a growth target for 2021 is that the low base in 2020 could skew the figures. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told at a symposium on Friday that the government must “ensure the economy is running within an appropriate range”. “Employment is the biggest issue of livelihood and the foundation of economic development, we must stick to an employment priority policy,” he said. The event was held to solicit the opinions of businesspeople and economists on drafts of the government’s 2021 work report, 14th five-year plan and 2035 vision, all three of which will be formally presented at this year’s National People’s Congress (NPC) , according to a statement issued by the State Council on Saturday. China GDP: IMF cuts 2021 growth forecast citing US tech decoupling, domestic debt, Hong Kong risks Zhang Liqun, a researcher at the Development Research Centre of the State Council, said the economic growth target for 2021 was expected to once again be “abnormal”. “We should put achieving sufficient employment at the centre of planning. As long as an economic growth rate can do this, then it is at a reasonable level,” he said at an online conference held by the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges. Zhu Baoliang, chief economist at the State Information Centre, said at the same event that China’s underlying growth capacity this year was still close to 6 per cent, after taking the lingering confrontation with the United States, changes in labour productivity and the impact of the pandemic into account. “The pandemic itself has had little impact on China’s underlying growth rate, about 0.2 [percentage points]. But the impact over human health is hard to quantify,” he said. China takes victory lap over economic recovery to pre-coronavirus pandemic growth rates Authorities in Guangdong, China’s largest provincial economy, said on Sunday it had set a growth target of “above 6 per cent” for 2021, up from a goal of “about 6 per cent” for the previous year. Both Shanghai (on Sunday) and Beijing (on Saturday) released growth targets of “more than 6 per cent” for 2021, after similarly aiming for “about 6 per cent” for 2020. In Hainan, an island province that the central government has earmarked to become a free-trade port like Hong Kong, said on Sunday that its economic growth would be “no less than 10 per cent” in 2021, up from “about 6.5 per cent” for 2020. The provinces of Henan, China’s most populous, and Shanxi, a centre for the coal mining industry, set growth targets of “more than 7 per cent” and 8 per cent, respectively, while Fujian, a commercial powerhouse in the southeast of the country, set its at 7.5 per cent. The release of the provincial growth targets is seen as a prelude to the NPC session, which is set to start on March 4 in Beijing. Hebei and Liaoning were expected to have released their figures, but their local legislative gatherings were postponed due to the lockdowns imposed to contain a recent surge in Covid-19 cases. At last year’s NPC session, China’s central government abandoned its decades-long tradition of setting an annual economic growth rate after Covid-19 caused the economy to contract by 6.8 per cent in the first quarter.