BEIJING (Reuters) - China's economic growth could slow to around 5 percent in the next two to three years, Chinese media quoted a researcher at an influential think tank linked to the state cabinet as saying, a forecast that contrasts with rosier official estimates.
Ren Zeping, the deputy director of the macroeconomic research department at the Development Research Centre (DRC), was reported by Shanghai Securities News as saying the economy was shifting gear from high-speed to medium-speed expansion.
As such, he said growth in the world's second-biggest economy may slow to about 7.2 percent this year and then to around 6 percent in 2015, and eventually to around 5 percent in the next two to three years.
Reuters was unable to contact Ren at the think tank. A senior researcher at the DRC said Ren had already left.
"What he says has got nothing to do with us. He is not one of our people," said the source, who declined to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Calls to the macroeconomic policy department at the DRC for an official comment were not answered.
The government has forecast growth of 7.5 percent this year, but has said it would be comfortable with a slightly slower rate. Analysts polled by Reuters expect growth to slow to a 24-year low of 7.3 percent.
Ren said inadequate domestic demand had led to a steady deceleration in the economy since 2010, offsetting a recovery in world demand after the 2008/09 global financial crisis.
The DRC is one of many institutions that makes policy recommendations to Chinese leaders. Despite its high standing, its advice is not always taken on board.
Ren's predictions are more dire than other forecasts from the government. Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said earlier this month that he was confident of sustaining economic growth of between 7-8 percent in the next decade.
Hurt by slowing domestic investment growth and falling exports, the economy grew an annual 7.4 percent in the first quarter, its weakest rate in 18 months.
Reporting by Koh Gui Qing; Editing by Jacqueline Wong