BEIJING (Reuters) - China economy likely grew by around 7 percent in 2015 and added 13 million new jobs, the top economic planning agency said on Tuesday as it announced the approval of more large infrastructure projects to avert the risks of a sharper slowdown.
China achieved its main economic targets in 2015, Li Pumin, spokesman for the National Reform and Development Commission (NDRC) told a news conference on Tuesday, a week before official fourth-quarter and full-year 2015 figures will be released.
Li’s comments come as a renewed plunge in Chinese stock markets and a sharp slide in the yuan currency have stoked concerns among global investors about the health of the world’s second-largest economy, though there is little evidence that conditions in China have deteriorated dramatically in recent weeks.
Still, growth of 7 percent would be the slowest in a quarter of a century, and down from 7.3 percent in 2014 as weak demand at home and abroad, industrial overcapacity and faltering investment weigh on the world’s second-largest economy.
Some China watchers believe real growth levels are already much weaker than official data suggest, reinforcing expectations that the government will have to roll out more support measures this year.
China approved 280 fixed asset investment projects worth 2.52 trillion yuan ($383.44 billion) in 2015, Li said.
Thirty-two projects worth 515.1 billion yuan were approved in December alone.
The government has flagged that it intends to spend more on infrastructure to shore up economic activity, but it has faced delays, partly due to slow loan distribution, poor initial planning and high local government debt levels.
“I think there is little connection between the falling stock markets and the real economy,” said Shen Lan, an economist at Standard Chartered in Beijing.
“Actually, economic indicators in November already showed the economy gained more momentum.”
Reporting by Xiaoyi Shao and Sue-Lin Wong; Editing by Sam Holmes and Kim Coghill