* China confident of steady industrial growth despite pressures
* Welcomes foreign firms to build 5G networks – industry minister
* Says opposes politicising the technology issue (Adds comment on 6G)
BEIJING, Jan 20 (Reuters) – China is confident of maintaining steady industrial growth this year despite big pressures on the sector, underpinned by tax cuts and broad policy support, Minister of Industry and Information Technology Wei said on Monday.
The country’s industrial output topped expectations in December by growing 6.9% from a year earlier, the strongest pace in nine months, bringing full-year 2019 expansion to 5.7% – within the government’s target of 5.5-6.0%.
Growth in the world’s second largest-economy cooled to a near 30-year low of 6.1% in 2019 amid a bruising trade war with the United States, and more stimulus is expected this year as Beijing tries to boost sluggish domestic demand.
“Looking forward to 2020, industrial development faces many difficulties and risks,” Miao told a news conference. “The pressure on stabilising industrial growth is still big.”
But the government will be able to “ensure the smooth operation of the industrial economy” this year as big tax cuts and policy efforts to ease corporate funding strains have started to gain traction, he said.
Beijing will continue to implement tax and fee reduction measures this yeas, focusing on the manufacturing sector, Miao said without giving details.
The government has said its tax and fee cuts exceeded 2 trillion yuan ($292.03 billion) in 2019.
China will increase investment in research and development and use other policy incentives to help promote innovations and upgrade the manufacturing sector, Miao said.
China welcomes foreign firms to participate in the building of its 5G networks and opposes politicising the technology issue, he said, in an apparent criticism of Washington’s moves against Huawei, the world’s largest maker of mobile networking equipment.
Washington is trying to persuade Britain not to use Huawei equipment in the upgrade of its telecoms network.
Wen Ku, spokesman and head of the information and communication department at the ministry, said China has been conducting research on 6G for two years, but to date the government “had no obvious or standout results to share with anyone.”
Separately, Miao said China is also studying postponing the reduction of subsidies for new energy vehicles.
China expects vehicle sales to remain at around 25 million units in 2020, and they could be flat from last year or decline, the minister added.
($1 = 6.8485 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Shen Yan and Kevin Yao; Additional reporting by Josh Horwitz in Shanghai; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)