China to open 8 state-run industries to private investors to make economy more productive

China's government said it would open 80 projects in eight state-run industries to private and foreign investors as part of efforts to make its slowing economy more efficient.

The announcement was the latest in a series of policy changes aimed at carrying out the ruling Communist Party's pledge in November to give entrepreneurs and foreign investors a bigger role in the state-dominated economy.

A Cabinet statement late Wednesday gave no indication whether private investors would be given any control over the newly opened industries, which include oil and hydro power. Other industries cited were wind power, natural gas storage and distribution, solar power, coal, railways and port operations.

The Cabinet "decided to launch a number of projects to encourage participation of 'social capital' in a number of areas such as infrastructure to promote fair competition," said the statement on the main government website.

Citing Premier Li Keqiang, the country's top economic official, it said regulations on the role of foreign and private investors would be released as soon as possible.

Chinese leaders are trying to replace a growth model based on exports and investment that delivered three decades of explosive growth but is running out of steam. They want to nurture more self-sustaining growth based on domestic consumption.

At the same time, even as entrepreneurs are promised a bigger role, the ruling party wants to ensure it retains control of the economy.

Industries cited in Wednesday's statement have been deemed strategic in the past by the government. Any attempt to restructure them or give outsiders a voice in how they are run is likely to face opposition from party factions that rely on those industries as a source of money and jobs for supporters.

Economic growth has slowed steadily over the past two years as Chinese leaders try to nurture more self-sustaining domestic consumption. It fell to 7.4 percent in the first three months of this year from the previous quarter's 7.7 percent.

Premier Li Keqiang promised in an annual policy speech in March to give competitive markets "a decisive role" in allocating resources. That will require Beijing to overturn a system that supports major state companies with monopolies and access to low-cost credit, energy, land and other resources.

In a reference to possible opposition, Li said in March that Beijing will need to "break mental shackles and vested interests."

Wednesday's statement said the next round of opening state-dominated industries would extend to oil and gas exploration, utilities, water and airports.