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BEIJING: China’s leaders said Friday they had set a target for GDP to grow more than six percent this year, as the world’s second largest economy surges out of a pandemic-induced slump.

The global growth powerhouse stuttered in 2020, logging its slowest expansion in four decades as strict virus containment measures at home collided with a freeze in international trade.

The slowdown raised doubts about the Communist Party’s ability to deliver on its pledge of continued prosperity in return for unquestioned political power.

But with the coronavirus largely brought under control domestically, analysts expect a strong comeback, with some suggesting the economy could expand by as much as nine percent this year.

Beijing usually sets a target it feels it can exceed. It did not set one at all last year.

Announcing the figure at the start of the annual legislative session, Premier Li Keqiang said the government had “taken into account the recovery of economic activity”.

The target of over six percent also dovetails with future goals, Li said, and these include reform, innovation, and “high-quality development”.

Authorities say they want to create 11 million new urban jobs this year, and keep urban unemployment around 5.5 percent.

Outside observers caution that China’s unemployment figures may not tell the whole story, with many people across the vast nation involved in the informal workforce.

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