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China must deepen reforms to meet economic challenges: president

A cleaner works at a newly built business building in Beijing July 16, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
A cleaner works at a newly built business building in Beijing July 16, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

BEIJING (Reuters) - China must deepen reforms to address a slew of challenges confronting it, President Xi Jinping said in comments published on Tuesday that emphasize the government's determination to restructure the slowing economy.

The official Xinhua news agency quoted Xi as saying during a trip to the central province of Hubei this week that officials must hold high the spirit of reform and innovation when managing the world's second biggest economy to propel its sustainable and healthy development.

"To address the series of problems and challenges facing our country's development, the key is to deepen reforms in all aspects," Xi was quoted as saying.

Xi is the latest top official to make remarks on reforms since his government formally took office in March.

Growth in China's economy has slowed in nine of the past 10 quarters, taking a toll on its domestic financial markets and prompting global investors to cut their exposure to the country.

The economy grew 7.5 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, and economists in a latest Reuters poll projected the growth rate for 2013 would be 7.5 percent, hitting the government's target.

But the new leadership has signalled it is prepared to tolerate slower growth to move the economy away from export-led growth and towards one driven by domestic demand, with 7 percent annual expansion seen as the bottom line.

Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli was quoted by Xinhua on Monday as saying that China remained committed to steering its economy towards consumption as the main growth driver, and away from investment and exports, and would fine-tune policies to deal with any prolonged slowdown.

Last week, the central bank scrapped the floor on lending rates, in a long-awaited reform that signalled determination to carry out market-oriented reforms.

Xi also said that China must tread a careful line between "being courageous and walking steadily" and between "reform, development and stability".

He encouraged local officials to respect farmers' wishes in land transactions and to carry out land reform in a way that would help increase farm incomes.

(Reporting by Langi Chiang, Xiaoyi Shao and Jonathan Standing; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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