BOAO, China—Chinese President Hu Jintao said Friday the country will boost consumption and imports as part of efforts to restructure its economy, and pledged to invest more in Asian and other emerging markets.
"We will let imports play a key role in balancing China's macroeconomy and adjusting our economic structure to promote trade balance, which will offer an important opportunity for Asian countries and other nations in the world to expand their exports to China," Mr. Hu said in a speech at the start of the Boao Forum, an annual gathering of government and business leaders on the southern Chinese island of Hainan.
His remarks are a reflection of Beijing's continuing efforts to steer the world's second-largest economy away from its heavy reliance on exports, which has tied the government's hands in liberalizing its foreign-exchange policy and led to widespread discontent among the country's major trading partners and rivals.
China is also looking to increase imports to help reduce the massive buildup of foreign-exchange reserves that are adding to domestic inflationary pressure. China's forex reserves—at $3.0447 trillion at the end of March, up $197.4 billion from the end of last year—are the world's largest.
Commerce Minister Chen Deming said in late January that Beijing will place a greater emphasis on importing more goods and stimulating domestic consumption this year, and the country aims to double its imports in the next five years. In around 10 years' time, the value of China's imports will exceed the current total amount of global trade, he said.
China recorded a $1.02 billion trade deficit for the first three months of this year, its first quarterly trade deficit since the first quarter of 2004.
Hu also urged Asian governments to actively adjust their economic structures.
"Despite the rapid economic growth, structural contradictions have emerged and the development is not balanced in Asia," Mr. Hu said.
"We will strengthen cooperation with our neighbors on transportation, oil and gas pipelines, information and communication, electricity network and other infrastructure construction sectors," he added.—Rose Yu and Shen Hong