China scraps annual economic growth target for first time

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China will not set an economic growth goal for this year as it deals with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

It is the first time Beijing has not had a gross domestic product (GDP) target since 1990 when records began.

The announcement was made by Premier Li Keqiang at the start of the country’s annual parliament meeting.

The world’s second largest economy shrank by 6.8% in the first quarter from a year ago as lockdowns paralysed businesses.

“This is because our country will face some factors that are difficult to predict in its development due to the great uncertainty regarding the Covid-19 pandemic and the world economic and trade environment,” Premier Li said.

The country’s leadership has promised to boost economic support measures amid growing concerns that rising unemployment could threaten social stability.

The move comes as tensions between Beijing and Washington are becoming increasingly strained over the coronavirus pandemic, trade and Hong Kong.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump stepped up his attacks on China, suggesting that the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, is behind a “disinformation and propaganda attack on the United States and Europe.”

It came as Mr Trump and other Republicans have escalated their criticism of Beijing’s handling of the early stages of the outbreak.

Also on Thursday, China announced plans to impose new national security legislation on Hong Kong after last year’s pro-democracy protests.

The announcement was met with a warning from Mr Trump that the US would react “very strongly” against any attempt to gain more control over the former British colony.

Separately, two US senators have proposed legislation to punish Chinese entities involved in enforcing the planned new laws and penalise banks that do business with them.

Earlier this week, the US Senate unanimously passed a proposal to delist Chinese companies from American stock exchanges if they fail to comply with US financial reporting standards.

US-listed Chinese companies have come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks after Luckin Coffee revealed that an internal investigation found hundreds of millions of dollars of its sales last year were “fabricated”.

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