China has set a course of major economic changes but extent and pace of implementation remains the big question, Andrew Moody reports
The annual Central Economic Work Conference in Beijing last month attracted more international attention than usual.
Commentators and observers were looking for what reform steps the new leadership were likely to introduce in the first full year in charge.
The increased anticipation was partly a result of the Third Plenum Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee in November that laid out an ambitious 10-year program by announcing the setting up of a high-level commission to coordinate nationwide reforms.
The four-day economic work conference was attended by all seven standing committee members of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, including President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.
The main focus, particularly for the markets, was an indication as to what growth target the government was likely to set for 2014.
With the outcome for 2013 still not known — although now expected to be about 7.6 percent — what analysts were looking for was whether the government was about to relax the target from "about 7.5 percent" this year to allow room for structural economic reform.
The actual new figure will not be known until the March meeting of the National People’s Congress, the national legislature.
Those reading the tea leaves at the economic work conference anticipate that this is likely to be between 7 percent — what government officials have already stated is the absolute floor — and 7.5 percent.
With China likely to be buoyed by any pick-up in global economic demand, another 7.5 percent target may not indicate a lack of appetite for reform.
Growth targets also have a history of not changing very much. Until 2012, when it dropped to 7.5 percent, the figure had been held at 8 percent for eight successive years.