China’s economy does not need to grow seven percent this year, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said late on Saturday, after data last week showed the economy grew at the slowest pace since the financial crisis.

But China can still overcome economic problems, Li said in a speech at the Central Party School, which trains cadres, according to a notice on the central government’s website.

Premier Li Keqiang
Premier Li Keqiang. File photo: AFP/Fred Dufour

Gross domestic product (GDP) in the world’s second-largest economy grew at just 6.9 percent in the third quarter, its slowest rate in six years.

In March, Li forecast 2015 economic growth would be about 7.0 percent, as the country shifts to a “new normal” driven by domestic consumption instead of exports and government investment.

“First, 6.9 percent is about 7 percent, which is in a reasonable range,” Li said, according to a report of the meeting by the People’s Daily, the official Communist Party mouthpiece. “We never said we must defend any target to the death.”

China’s most recent GDP figures added to fears over the health of the global economy, and some analysts expressed concern they had been manipulated to understate the gravity of the situation.

But Li attempted to strike an optimistic tone about the future.

“The joint efforts of the whole country and the great potential of China’s economy, strengthens our confidence in overcoming difficulties,” according to paraphrased remarks posted on the central government’s website.

The country’s decades-long boom, fuelled by infrastructure investment, exports and debt, made it a key driver of the global economy.

Even though growth has eased in recent years its GDP more than doubled in real terms between 2006 and 2014, according to World Bank figures.

Now it is looking to transition to a “new normal” of slower and more sustainable expansion driven by domestic consumer demand, but the change is proving bumpy and stock exchanges around the world have been pummelled in recent weeks by concerns over its future.

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