China's Li pledges more reform, says debt under control

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledged Wednesday to press ahead with an overhaul of the state-dominated economy and financial markets despite slowing growth, saying the country's rising debt levels are under control.

Li's comments at a news conference were the latest installment in a high-level campaign to reassure jittery global markets about the health of the world's second-largest economy following stock market and currency turmoil.

Li, the country's top economic official, expressed confidence Beijing can carry out plans to shrink bloated steel and coal industries while still meeting its economic growth target of 6.5 to 7 percent. He promised to make it easier to set up private businesses and said financial markets will be made more market-oriented to support growth.

"We will continue to pursue market-oriented reform," said Li at the event held following the closing of the annual session of China's ceremonial legislature.

The premier acknowledged concerns about rising debts and potential bad loans at banks but said debt levels and manageable due to large reserves at financial institutions and a high savings rate.

"We are still in a good position to defuse debt risks," he said.