China's Xi says 'ultra-high speed' growth probably over

BOAO, China (AFP) - China's President Xi Jinping said on Monday the days of "ultra-high speed" growth in the world's second-largest economy - which many hope can spur a global recovery - are probably over.

"I don't think we will be able to sustain an ultra-high speed of economic growth and it is not what we want either," Mr Xi told about two dozen foreign business figures on the southern island of Hainan.

"Still it is possible for us to sustain a relatively high speed of economic growth," he added. "The Chinese economy is in good shape."

China has recorded annual average growth of 9.9 percent since the country began opening up its economy, he said, describing the feat as "rarely seen in the history of world economic development".

Mr Xi was speaking at a meeting held as part of the Boao Forum for Asia, an annual gathering of political and economic leaders.

He said factors such as urbanisation, continuing industrialisation and the modernisation of agriculture were cause for optimism regarding the future "upward trajectory" of the economy.

But he did not elaborate on what his terms meant in exact figures.

China's economy grew at its slowest pace in 13 years in 2012, with gross domestic product expanding 7.8 percent in the face of weakness at home and in key overseas markets.

Mr Xi said the figure was lower than in previous years, "partly due to our efforts to control the speed of economic growth and speed up the transformation of the growth model".

"We will shift the focus of economic development to quality and efficiency," he added.

China's leaders have repeatedly vowed to retool the economic model to emphasise consumer demand as the key growth driver rather than investment and exports.

The country last month announced its economic growth target for 2013 is 7.5 percent, the same as last year.

Mr Xi became president last month after ascending to the leadership of the ruling Communist Party in November.

The Boao Forum has brought together leaders in government, business and academia in Asia and other continents every year since 2001 to discuss pressing issues in the region and the rest of the world.