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IMF chief calls on China to boost growth through “market-friendly reforms”.

The head of the International Monetary Fund called on China on Sunday to implement “a comprehensive package of free-market reforms” to boost a sluggish economy plagued by a housing crisis, low domestic demand and persistently high youth unemployment.

Policymakers in China have so far resisted calls to boost the economy through massive government stimulus, instead emphasizing the need to shift to “high-quality” growth.

Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the IMF, said on Sunday at the China Development Forum in Beijing that “the transition from high rates to high-quality growth is the right fork in the road and China is committed to it.”

The Bulgarian economist warned that “this transformation will not be easy” but argued that “with a comprehensive package of market reforms, China could grow significantly faster than a status quo scenario,” according to an official transcript of her speech.

Beijing should take “decisive steps” to reduce the number of unfinished housing and create more room for “market-based corrections” in the important but heavily indebted real estate sector, Georgieva said.

Authorities should also boost “the purchasing power of individuals and families” by strengthening China’s pension system and taking other steps to improve its vast social security apparatus, she added.

Georgieva also urged China to “strengthen the business environment.” [ensure] “a level playing field between private and state-owned companies,” a long-standing demand from foreign business groups operating in the Asian country.

China’s top politicians expressed outward optimism about the economy. Premier Li Qiang said at the forum on Sunday that Beijing will “take practical and effective measures to promote high-quality development and bring positive energy… to the recovery of the global economy.”

But GDP growth rates in China have been trending downward for years, and Beijing this month set an annual target of “around 5 percent” – significantly lower than the rapid expansion rates that have fueled the country’s meteoric rise to prosperity.

Sunday’s forum was attended by some of the world’s best-known business leaders, including Apple’s Tim Cook, who said he enjoyed an “excellent” meeting with Li.

“I think China is really opening up and I’m so happy to be here,” the CEO of the U.S.’s biggest smartphone empire told a reporter from CGTN, according to a video posted to one of the state broadcaster’s social media accounts .

In separate comments published online by state broadcaster CCTV, Cook said Apple would continue to increase its investment in research and development in China.

He added that Apple’s flagship mixed reality headset, the Vision Pro, will launch in China later this year, according to a social media post that contained his remarks only in Chinese translation.

Cook was in Shanghai this week to open a new Apple Store and discussed the company’s expansion plans in China with the country’s Commerce Minister Wang Wentao on Friday.

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