SHANGHAI, April 20 China will soon start
construction on a series of major energy projects, including
nuclear and hydropower plants, Premier Li Keqiang said on
Sunday, highlighting an infrastructure build-out that could help
bolster the slowing economy.
Earlier this month, Li said China would not take strong,
short-term measures to stimulate the economy, focusing instead
on ways to promote healthy growth over the medium- to
"We will soon start construction on a number of large
projects," Li was quoted by the government's main information
website (gov.cn) as saying at a meeting of the national energy
It was unclear if Li was talking about kickstarting projects
already in the pipeline or was announcing new projects designed
to promote economic activity.
Investors have long steeled themselves for growth to slow as
China's economy matures, especially as the government tries to
steer it away from investment- and export-driven growth and
towards consumption-led activity.
Economists have repeatedly cut their growth forecasts for
2014, with a Reuters poll showing growth is forecast at 7.4
percent, a shade below the government's 7.5 percent target.
After the government announced last week that growth in the
first quarter was 7.4 percent, Li announced a relaxation in
reserve requirements for rural banks to help the farm sector.
The energy-related projects "will be important measures to
stabilise growth and improve energy security capabilities, and
an effective starting point for the adjustment of the energy
structure and changing the mode of development", Li said.
China should, "in a timely manner", launch important nuclear
power projects along the east coast that employ the highest
international safety standards, while building new hydropower
plants while protecting the environment, he said.
China in October began approving new nuclear reactors after
a year-and-a-half ban by Beijing following the Fukushima
disaster in Japan. Beijing aims to bring capacity up from 12.57
gigawatts to 58 GW by the end of 2020. Nearly 30 GW of new
capacity is under construction in China, more than 40 percent of
the world's total new-build.
Air pollution has become a major concern across China and Li
said the country would try to boost the development of electric
cars and upgrade coal-burning power plants that failed to meet
emission reduction requirements.
Li also said the government would start construction on
ultra-high voltage power lines to transport power from western
regions to the power-hungry east coast, while accelerating the
development of unconventional energy resources, including shale
gas, shale oil and coal bed methane.
An almost unabated run of disappointing data this year has
fuelled investor speculation the government would loosen fiscal
or monetary policy more dramatically to shore up activity.
Authorities so far have resisted broad stimulus measures but
earlier this month announced tax breaks for small firms and
plans to speed up some infrastructure spending, including the
building of rail lines.
(Reporting by John Ruwitch; editing by Jon Boyle)