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A giant screen shows Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attending a news conference after the closing session of the National People's Congress, in Beijing, on March 11, 2021.TINGSHU WANG/Reuters

China will ensure stable economic growth in the first quarter of 2022, state radio quoted Premier Li Keqiang as saying on Wednesday.

The government will implement greater tax and fee cuts for businesses and would provide targeted support for COVID-affected sectors such as services, Li was quoted as saying.

China would extend existing tax breaks and increase deductions for research and development (R&D) expenses when companies calculate their income tax, Li added.

Facing new downward pressures on its economy, China aims to stabilize key sectors such as employment, financing, trade and investment, Li said.

The world’s second-largest economy faces multiple challenges heading into 2022 because of a property downturn and strict COVID-19 restrictions that have hit consumer spending.

Zhang Ming, senior economist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a top government think-tank, said in a report that China’s economy could grow 5.3-5.5 per cent in 2022.

The government would adopt “more expansionary” policies this year to prevent growth slowing further from the fourth quarter of last year, Zhang said.

Some analysts estimate fourth-quarter gross domestic product growth may have dipped below 4 per cent from the 4.9 per cent pace in the previous quarter, although growth in 2021 could still be about 8 per cent, above the official target of over 6 per cent.

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