BEIJING China's leadership is targeting growth of less than 8 percent in 2012 a senior government researcher wrote on Friday in the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party.
Lin Zhaomu, a researcher affiliated with China's economic planning agency and the author of key economic documents for the Chinese leadership, wrote that the 2012 target fell between 7 and 8 percent and had been adjusted to help Beijing deliver on its plan for average GDP growth of 7 percent in 2011-2015.
A government adviser, who declined to be identified, separately told Reuters that the leadership had set a 7.5 percent growth target for 2012 at the annual economic working conference last month, Beijing's top economic planning event.
Investors had anticipated a lower growth target to be set in a bid by Beijing to engineer a soft landing for an economy that has boomed for most of the last three decades.
Private sector economists expect annual economic growth slowed to below 9 percent in the last three months of 2011, though they still expect full year growth to be around the 9 percent mark. Q4 GDP data is due to be published on January 17.
Lin said the less ambitious target also reflected the leadership's concern about weakening demand in overseas markets and a shrinking labour supply at home.
China's economic growth target, regarded more as a guideline than a serious goal, is made public by the premier to the ceremonial gathering of the parliament in early March.
Premier Wen Jiabao has set an annual economic growth target of 8 percent for the last seven consecutive years, with actual growth consistently ahead of that -- even during the 2008/09 global financial crisis.
Although Beijing has targeted 7 percent annual average growth for the period of 2011-2015, Chinese provincial governments were much more aggressive -- the average weighted growth target published by China's 31 provinces for the five-year period was 10.5 percent, according to Lin.
(Reporting by Zhou Xin and Koh Gui Qing; Editing by Nick Edwards)