China's policymakers are well aware of the problems facing the economy and they have been making targeted adjustments as appropriate. And the country is trying to catch up with the US, the world's largest economy, in terms of GDP, and that point is forecast to come around 2025-2030, Chinese economists said on Wednesday.
Figures from the US Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis showed on February 28 that real US GDP expanded by 2.9 percent in 2018 to $20.5 trillion, slightly down from the US Federal Reserve's estimate of 3 percent in December. That means the US was the first country to break through the threshold of $20 trillion.
Along with a record GDP, the US national debt also set a new record, topping $22 trillion for the first time in 2018 and exceeding its GDP.
In comparison, China's GDP growth was 6.6 percent last year amid internal and external pressures, rising to a total of $13.6 trillion as calculated by the annual average exchange rate. That figure kept China in second place globally.
The year-on-year expansion of China's GDP in 2018 - $1.4 trillion - was equal to the entire economic output of Australia in 2017, said Sheng Laiyun, deputy head of China's National Bureau of Statistics.
Another notable figure: China's GDP was equal to 66.34 percent of the US, up 3 percentage points. But the ratio was only about 10 percent at the beginning of China's reform and opening-up, said Xiang Songzuo, a senior economist at Renmin University of China.
"The gap between China and US GDP has been narrowing and it is inevitable for China to surpass the US within a decade," Xiang told the Global Times on Wednesday.
Huang Shouhong, an official at the State Council - China's cabinet - who also participated in drawing up the Government Work Report, told a press conference on Tuesday that if the GDP growth rate can stay around 6.2 percent this year and next, it's possible that by 2020, economic output will be double the amount of 2010.
According to Xiang, the US long-term GDP expansion rate will stay at about 2 to 2.5 percent in the long run, while that of China will be about 5 percent or less as of 2035.
"However, GDP statistics cannot entirely reflect the comprehensive power of the two countries, including technological development, medical care, education and cumulative wealth," said Xiang.
In addition, there is still a long way to go for China's GDP per capita, which is often seen as a measure of living standards, to improve. In 2018, China's GDP per capita stood at about $9,500, while the figure for the US was about $62,517, according to calculations by the Global Times.
"We should take note of the point when China's GDP finally catches up with the US someday, but it is not everything and should not be exaggerated. For China, the long-term issue is to enhance the quality of GDP," Xiang noted.
China has not completed its urbanization and modernization, and its economic drivers like low-end manufacturing and surplus property assets have felt the pinch during the country's pursuit of high-quality growth, said Xiang.
"Setting a lower target is definitely not an indicator that China is going backward. On the contrary, it is in line with objective reality," he said.
China has lowered its economic growth target this year to between 6 and 6.5 percent, according to the Government Work Report delivered on Tuesday.
"Addressing major challenges caused by unbalanced and insufficient development instead of merely paying attention to growth speed will repay China with high-quality power," added Xiang.
High leverage ratios and mounting debt are being closely watched by foreign investors and industry insiders as they assess China's economic model. Although government policies are reducing these risks, they persist.
Wang Jun, an expert at the China Center for International Economic Exchange, said that top Chinese policy-makers are well aware of such issues and they're mapping out solutions at their own pace. "It's unlikely for the Chinese economy to encounter a 'hard landing' and the debt level is overall controllable," said Wang.
China's local governments have debts of more than 33 trillion yuan ($4.92 trillion) and the liability ratio is 37 percent, lower than the EU warning level of 60 percent. The ratio is also lower than similar measures in major developed economies and emerging market economies.
Newspaper headline: Quality key driver in GDP growth