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Official: China Becoming Nation of Spenders

China is turning into a nation of spenders as its per capita GDP exceeded the US$2,000 mark, which leaves room for bulging domestic demand, a senior official said Monday.

Ballooning domestic consumption and upgrading consumption structure since the reform and opening up in 1978 have made China the world's biggest markets for mobile phones, tourism and broadband services, said Yu Guangzhou, vice minister of commerce, at the China Economic Development Forum.

China's domestic consumption has continued to grow at 13.1 percent per annum in the past five years, and it accounted for a bigger slice of GDP growth than investment and export in 2007, for the first time in seven years.

China's per capita GDP reached US$2,456 in 2007. However, consumption still took up less than 50 percent of the GDP, 28 percentage pints lower than the world average.

China's monthly trade surplus shrank to US$8.56 billion in February, roughly one third of the level in the same month last year, mainly due to weakening US demand.

Experts say total exports figures will continue to flatten this year as a result of a stronger yuan and the rising cost introduced by tougher labor laws from January 1. That will make its role in GDP growth less important.

Yu reckoned China will jump to be the biggest market for luxury goods, from the current third place, by 2014, snatching 23 percent of the world share.

Domestic tourist figure will hit 2.8 billion persons by 2015, while outbound travelers will total 100 million, the fourth largest source of tourists in the world, he said.

The opening Chinese market will benefit the world economy, Yu said.

Citing figures from the World Bank, the official said that China contributed to 13 percent of world economic growth in the past five years. After China's accession to the World Trade Organization, the country's import volume has surged by an annual growth rate of 26 percent on the average.

(Xinhua News Agency March 25, 2008)

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