China to see double-digit growth again in 2007


China is likely to see a fifth consecutive year of double-digit growth in 2007, the central bank said in remarks published Friday, just weeks after the government called for a slowdown in the economy. The world’s fourth-largest economy will probably expand by 10 percent this year, compared with 10.7 percent in 2006, the central bank’s research department said in a report carried by the China Securities Journal.

“The trade surplus is likely to maintain relatively fast growth in the first half but the rising trend should ease in the second half,” the report said.

In a speech to lawmakers earlier this month, Premier Wen Jiabao targeted eight percent growth in 2007.

Analysts almost immediately characterized the target as unrealistic, saying it was mainly meant as a signal to lower-level officials to refrain from going for growth at any cost.

The central bank research report suggested no clear trend in economic growth throughout 2007, with slightly faster expansion both early and late in the year.

The economy is expected to expand 10.2 percent in the first quarter, 9.85 percent in the second, 9.8 percent in the third and 10.05 percent in the fourth, it said.

The report forecast consumer price inflation to be around 2.3 percent in 2007, higher than the 1.5 percent for full-year 2006 but below the three percent upper limit set by the central government.

Fixed-asset investment growth, an important driver for the economy, is forecast to slow to about 22 percent this year from 24 percent in 2006, according to the report.

The research bureau said retail sales, a main gauge of consumer spending and sentiment, is expected to remain brisk in 2007, with the growth rate higher than the 13.7 percent expansion in 2006.