Efficiency has replaced speed as the official priority in China's economic development, which has registered double-digit growth at the cost of high energy consumption and a deteriorating environment.
Chinese President Hu Jintao has said in recent meetings that the country would realize "efficient and rapid" economic development. His remarks replaced the decade-long goal to achieve "rapid and efficient" development.
"China should take substantive measures to shift its focus from pursuing speed to improving the quality and efficiency of economic growth," said Hu.
Zhong Wei, an economic professor with Beijing Normal University, said the wording change sent a strong signal that the government would list efficiency as the primary criterion to evaluate economic performance of next year.
A high-level meeting presided over by Hu last week decided that the government would convene the annual Central Work Conference on Economy in the near future to discuss the new primary goal.
The economy has been expanding rapidly since 1990, with an annual growth rate of 9.7 percent on average, making China the world's fourth largest economic entity last year.
But the country has paid a price for blind pursuit of GDP. The high energy consumption, accompanied by high pollution, has posed a threat to its sustainable development and prompted criticism from around the world.
Zhong said efficient economic growth had many implications, such as raising the proportion of the tertiary sector in the economy, reducing the output of high energy-consuming industries and developing and applying high technologies.
The government has set a goal to reduce energy consumption per capita GDP by 20 percent in 2010 over that in 2005, which translates to around a four-percent decrease annually from 2006 to 2010.
But Zhong said published data indicated the difficulty of attaining the goal. The economy surged by 10.9 percent in the first half, the fastest growth rate in a decade. Meanwhile, energy consumption rose, rather than fell as expected.
Zhong speculated that the grave situation in energy efficiency had pushed the government to make the changes and list efficiency at the top of the economic agenda.