BEIJING (Reuters) - China's cabinet on Wednesday approved a blueprint to promote seven strategic industries by 2015 as part of efforts to reform the economy and underpin long-term growth.
"As the economy faces increasing downward pressure, it has great significance in maintaining long-term steady and relatively fast growth," the state council, or cabinet, said on its website, www.gov.cn, after a meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao.
The strategic industries cover energy-saving and environmental protection efforts, next generation information technology developments, biotech, industrial materials, advanced equipment manufacturing and new energy sources, including for the auto sector.
China's economy is on course this year to grow 8.2 percent, its slowest pace since 1999, according to the consensus forecast of investment bank economists in the latest Reuters poll.
Beijing has unveiled several measures to boost domestic consumption and private investment as the economy faces the headwinds of a slowdown in export demand growth.
Such moves include fast-tracking approval of infrastructure investment, offering subsidies for buying energy-saving home appliances, encouraging more private capital to enter a handful of sectors, which are dominated by state firms.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) - China's top economic planning agency - gave the green light to around 100 projects on May 21.
That has fanned speculation that Beijing may initiate a new fiscal spending spree, as well as raising concern in some quarters that China is boosting economic activity by adding to already unproductive sectors beset by overcapacity.
The NDRC said in a statement on Tuesday that new steel plant approvals in the southern provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi were based on plans that to cut existing crude steel capacity in the provinces by 16.14 million tons and 10.7 million tons respectively in the years between 2011 and 2015.
"China will speed up pace in consolidating existing capacity," it said.
The newly-approved steel plant in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province will involve total investment of 70 billion yuan, with capacity for steel of 10 million tons, steel product of 9.4 million tons and iron of 9.2 million tons, according to a report on www.xinhuanet.com, the news port of China's official Xinhua News agency.
The plan in Guangxi is to build a new plant with 9.2 million tons of steel capacity, 8.6 million tons of steel product and 8.5 million tons of iron, which needs total investment of 64 billion yuan, Xinhua said.
Reporting by Langi Chiang and Nick Edwards; Editing by Ed Lane