China lowered its 2015 economic growth target to "approximately 7%" today, as authorities seek a more sustainable path for the world's second-largest economy after its decades-long boom. 

The goal announced by Premier Li Keqiang comes after China's economy expanded 7.4% in 2014, the slowest pace in 24 years. Last year's target was "about 7.5%". 

China also lowered its target for annual inflation to "around 3%", Li said in his "work report" at the opening of the annual National People's Congress, the country's Communist-controlled legislature. 

The lowering of the economic growth target was widely expected by economists.

It reflects the reality of a multi-year slowdown in the Asian giant that has seen it come off regular annual double-digit expansions. 

"Over the past year, the international and domestic environments faced by China in its development have been complicated and challenging," Li said. 

"The road to global economic recovery has been rough, with many ups and downs, and the performance of the major economies has been divergent. Downward pressure on China's economy has continued to mount, and we have faced an array of interwoven difficulties and challenges," he stated. 

Chinese leaders have proclaimed a "new normal" of slower expansion and emphasis on further economic reforms, and the 2015 growth goal matches the median forecast for GDP expansion this year in a recent AFP survey of 15 economists. 

Annual inflation plunged to a more than five-year low of 0.8% in January, official data showed last month, fuelling fears the economy is on the brink of a deflationary spiral. 

China's leaders are trying to pull off a delicate rebalancing of the economy, steering it away from past reliance on major - and highly leveraged - investment projects and towards one whereby consumer spending becomes the key engine for expansion. 

Slower growth is a welcome byproduct of the transformation, they say, and will result in a more sustainable economic model. 

"As the force that has traditionally driven economic growth is weakening, it is imperative that we intensify structural reform, boost efforts to implement the strategy of pursuing innovation-driven development, and upgrade traditional engines while creating new ones for driving development," Li said. 

Li has said repeatedly that slower growth is no problem so long as the quality is high and job growth is strong. 

He said in his speech today that China created 13.22 million new urban jobs last year, improving on 2013's figure. But he kept the target for urban job creation for this year at "over 10 million". 

Ensuring enough jobs in China, the world's most populous country, is a key task for the ruling party, which touts its own success in lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty as a signature element of its right to rule.