China's finance minister says Beijing is expanding deficit spending to prevent a slide in growth and support its efforts to overhaul its cooling economy.

Lou Jiwei said Monday the deficit target of 3 percent of gross domestic product, up from last year's 2.3 percent, was in line with Communist Party plans to nurture slower, more self-sustaining growth.

At a news conference, Lou said the deficit was widening "because we don't want to see a decrease in economic growth."

On Saturday, the Chinese leadership lowered its growth target for the world's second-largest economy to 6.5 to 7 percent from last year's level of "about 7 percent."

The ruling Communist Party has said that is the minimum required to achieve its goals for raising incomes.