China boosts market reform

By Jamie Gray jamie gray@apnz co nz

Chinese President Xi Jinping (centre) and other Communist Party leaders are promising a bigger role for market forces.Picture / AP
Chinese President Xi Jinping (centre) and other Communist Party leaders are promising a bigger role for market forces.Picture / AP

International financial markets are taking a wait and see approach after China's leaders announced a greater role for markets in the country's future economic strategy.

The nation will make markets "decisive" in allocating resources, according to a communique from the third full meeting, or plenum, of the party's 18th Central Committee.

At the same time, the state will remain "dominant" in the economy, indicating limits on reducing government involvement, Bloomberg reported.

China's leaders are under pressure to revamp the nation's finances as swelling local-government debt highlights the risk of a buildup of bad loans and state businesses' access to bank funding crowds out small firms.

HSBC economist Adam Richardson said the announcement was light on detail but that the over-arching statement that China aims to achieve decisive results in its reform push by 2020 was significant.

China's surprise undertaking to reform its judicial system gave rise to speculation that a more independent judiciary was likely. Comments about widening China's welfare system were also unexpected.

On market reform, Richardson said it looked like China was interested in achieving better resource allocation, using mechanisms so that pricing can play a clearer role.

"In the coming days and months you will see more detail there about the reform areas, which potentially will be more influential for the market," Richardson said.

Louis Kuijs, chief China economist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group in Hong Kong, said it looked like China was going in the right direction.

"Even though some of the phrasing is new, the ideas are not so new."

The communique reiterated the role of state ownership while saying development of the non-public sector will be "encouraged".

Hao Hong, a Hong Kong-based strategist at Bocom International, said the meeting "underwhelms in details".

When Premier Li Keqiang took office in March, he pledged to open the economy to market forces.

GDP expanded 7.8 per cent in July-to-September from a year earlier, from a 7.5 per cent gain in the previous period, bolstering Li's chances of meeting the government's 7.5 per cent full-year growth target.

State media had heralded the meeting as a "watershed" for reform, putting it in the same category as 1978's third plenum when former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping broke with decades of Maoism and introduced pro-market policies.

additional reporting: Bloomberg


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