Local governments setting and announcing specific targets
Although the central government has cut the national industrial output growth target for this year, many provincial governments are raising theirs - and that's despite the fact that many fell short of their goals last year.
After the conclusion of provincial legislative sessions, which routinely produce general economic growth goals, local governments have begun to set and announce specific targets.
For industrial production, many are setting targets that exceed last year's actual growth, the 21st Century Business Herald reported on Tuesday.
The newspaper mentioned several provinces, including those in the central and western regions - Hubei, Jiangxi, Gansu and Shaanxi.
For example, Jiangxi recorded actual industrial output growth last year of 12.4 percent, while this year's target is 14 percent.
Industrial output in these provinces covers companies with at least 10 million yuan ($1.65 million) in annual revenue.
"This situation reflects local governments' persistent strong desire to develop their industrial sectors", said Zhou Weifu, a researcher at the Institute of Industrial Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
China's industrial sector is experiencing a chronic glut in capacity, which has prompted the central government to make reducing overcapacity as one of the key economic tasks for this year.
Surging borrowing costs also cast a shadow over many companies, because industrial enterprises will find it increasingly difficult to raise money and their profit may not be sufficient to cover the high -and rising - interest rate.
On the national level, planners have cut the target for this year's industrial output growth to 9.5 percent. Actual growth in 2013 was 9.7 percent.
Deputy Minister of Industry and Information Mao Weimin told a conference on Tuesday that even this goal will be "difficult" to realize.
Local governments, at least in terms of words, are ready for lower growth. Among the 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities that have released their 2014 growth goals, 22 have lowered their GDP growth targets from 2013.
The largest revision was in the northeast, where Jilin cut its growth target to 8 percent from 12 percent a year earlier.
"The economic growth rate has moderated. The economy is undergoing structural adjustment. The previous stimulus program still requires time to digest all these negative factors are overlapping this year," Zhang Qingwei, governor of Hebei province, acknowledged in last month's government report.
"Particularly, industrial structural adjustment and the campaign to curb air pollution are putting unprecedented pressure on us," he said, referring to the massive campaign to shut steel mills and other factories.
The province, which surrounds Beijing, houses myriad steel mills, power plants and chemical factories. It produces nearly half of the country's steel and uses one-twelfth of the nation's energy.
The province has lowered this year's growth target to 8 percent from 9 percent a year earlier. But some observers doubt that local governments will cease their quest for industrial projects, slash wasteful investment and reduce reliance on investment growth.
Ha Jiming, chief investment strategist for the investment management division of China at the Goldman Sachs Group Inc, said if the investment to GDP ratio falls this year, growth must necessarily moderate to less than 7 percent, and that, Ha said, the current government cannot accept.
An unidentified government employee in east Zhoushan city complained that "everyone" in the government has been mobilized to lure investment projects.
So far this year, he said, one-third of each month's salary has been withheld. That portion will only be paid if the target for industrial projects is achieved.
An iron and steel plant in Tangshan, Hebei province, is demolishing its blast furnace in November, 2013, after being ordered by the provincial government to reduce the backward and polluting overcapacity industries. Li Shirao / Xinhua
(China Daily 02/19/2014 page16)