China's economic powerhouse Guangdong is set to continue its powerful growth streak while targeting 6-6.5 percent in economic growth this year, Governor Ma Xingrui said on Monday.
The GDP in Guangdong Province grew by 6.8 percent year on year and reached 9.73 trillion yuan (about 1.44 trillion U.S. dollars) in 2018, said Ma in a government work report at the opening ceremony for the annual session of the provincial legislature.
The figure accounted for around 10 percent of the national total.
The province's per capita disposable income saw an increase of 8.8 percent to 35,800 yuan last year.
Guangdong is a leading foreign trade player in the country, with its imports and exports topping 7.16 trillion yuan last year, a historic high, ranking first in the country for the 33rd year in a row.
The province's use of foreign capital rose 4.9 percent to reach 145 billion yuan in 2018. Meanwhile, the use of foreign investment in Guangdong's manufacturing sector increased by 57.9 percent last year, according to Ma.
Last year, Guangdong expanded its market access to foreign investment to allow wholly foreign-owned enterprises in fields including drones and new energy vehicle manufacturing.
"The economic growth in 2018 was quite a feat, considering the fact that its economic volume is already very large," said Yin Tao, deputy director of the Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences.
Yin attributed the sustained economic prosperity to a robust manufacturing sector, booming service sector and huge investment in research and development.
The number of big high-tech firms in Guangdong exceeded 40,000. Last year it spent 250 billion yuan in R&D.
The province, home to 111 million people, has been at the forefront in China's reform and opening up.
The private sector is a major contributor to economic growth. In 2018, the value-added output of the private sector grew 7.3 percent year on year, accounting for 54.1 percent of the provincial GDP.
The output, number of businesses and tax contributions of Guangdong's private sector were the highest among Chinese provincial regions, according to the provincial industry and information technology department.
Private companies generated 65 percent of the province's new patents and over 80 percent of new products, creating over 80 percent of the total new jobs in the province, the department said.
In 2018, 1.48 million new jobs were created in the province, and the urban registered unemployment rate came in at 2.41 percent.
Guangdong was profoundly engaged in the construction of the Belt and Road last year. Trade volume with the Belt and Road countries rose 7.3 percent in 2018, while the actual investment to these countries saw a dramatic increase of 64.2 percent.
Guangdong authorities said they would step up efforts in 2019 to build the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area into a global tech innovation center.
The Greater Bay Area covers the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao and nine cities in Guangdong.
Governor Ma Xingrui said Guangdong would work with Hong Kong and Macao to build a group of laboratories on advanced and industrial technologies as it created a tech innovation corridor linking Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macao.
"The province will promote the sharing of scientific facilities and data with Hong Kong and Macao and boost cooperation between universities, research institutions and tech firms within the Greater Bay Area," he said.
Guangdong will also speed up the construction of a high-intensity heavy-ion accelerator and cooperate with the Chinese Academy of Sciences to build a national terahertz science center and an intelligent supercomputing platform.
Ma also mentioned the importance of innovation in the pilot free trade zone in Guangdong, adding that Guangdong will try to expand the zone in 2019.
A variety of measures will be taken to stabilize foreign trade and boost foreign capital, Ma said. Guangdong authorities will try to develop the markets in ASEAN, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, etc., he said.
The province will continue to prevent major financial risks and try to win the battle against poverty and pollution, according to Ma.
This year, supply-side reforms will be further implemented to push for high-quality development, and Guangdong will stick with innovation to attract high-end global resources.