July 23, 2012 / 5:16 AM / 8 years ago

China eyes new strategic industries to spur economy

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will step up efforts to boost the development of seven strategic emerging industries to cushion downward pressure on the world’s second-largest economy, a senior official of the country’s top planning agency said on Monday.

“When the economic outlook is not good, developing strategic industries will definitely help alleviate downward pressure on the economy,” said Zhang Xiaoqiang, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, in an online interview published on the central government’s website, www.gov.cn

Zhang added that such emerging sectors had outpaced growth in traditional industries in recent months and could serve as a new growth engine for the economy.

“When in a crisis, in addition to helping traditional industries to weather difficulties, we have to take a longer view and develop new bright spots of growth to achieve an early economic recovery,” Zhang said.

China’s annual economic growth cooled to 7.6 percent in April-June period, the slackest in more than three years, confirming a downtrend that leaves full-year growth on course for its softest showing since 1999.

Strategic emerging industries have become a hot topic in the past year among Chinese policymakers pinning high hopes on their ability to maintain growth momentum with domestic consumption still not able to take up all the slack of an external downturn.

The seven strategic sectors, accounting for about 3 percent of GDP at the end of 2010, include energy-saving and environmental protection, next generation information technology, bio-technology, advanced equipment manufacturing, new energy, new materials and new-energy vehicles.

Apart from the growth potential, Zhang also pointed out challenges including a lack of expertise and a lag in the application of new technologies to the economy.

China’s State Council, the cabinet, issued guidelines in May to boost strategic industries during the 12th five-year plan period, spelling out measures ranging from higher fiscal expenditure to easier bank credit and other financing.

The government wants the seven strategic industries to generate 8 percent of GDP in 2015 and 15 percent by 2020.

Reuters reported at the end of 2010 that China was mulling investment of up to $1.5 trillion in the seven strategic industries over the course of five years to 2015.

Reporting by Aileen Wang and Koh Gui Qing; Editing by Nick Edwards

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