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What’s next for China? Economists are split

With China's gross domestic product (GDP) growth falling to its slowest pace in 14 years in 2013, what's next for the world's second largest economy?

Economists are divided into two distinct camps: those who see a continued growth deceleration towards 7 percent in 2014, and those who expect a pickup to above 8 percent.

(Read more: China economy grows 7.7% in fourth quarter)

The wide disparity stems from a variety of factors including the extent to which reforms undertaken at the Third Plenum in November will impact economic growth and the degree to which China will benefit from the pickup in global demand.

In the bullish camp is Louis Kuijs, chief China economist at RBS who sees the economy growing 8.2 percent in 2014, picking up from the 7.7 percent in 2013.

"We expect China to benefit from improved global growth this year. Faster world trade growth should support China's growth via stronger exports and corporate investment," Kuijs wrote in a note on Monday.

Tomohiro Ohsumi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Dispelling concerns that the government's reform efforts will produce a drag on the economy, Kuijs argues that the reforms likely to be carried this year are "broadly neutral to growth", namely the opening up and of the financial sector and capital account, and removal of barriers for private capital.

Li-Gang Liu, chief economist, Greater China at RBS, who sees growth slowing to 7.2 percent this year, has a different take on both of these issues.

According to Liu, exports will likely drag down growth as appreciation in the yuan erodes China's competitiveness. The country's export sector has showed signs of cooling in the past month, with growth in shipments slowing to 4.3 percent in December from 12.7 percent in November.

(Read more: China December trade surplus far short of estimates)

"We also believe that the 'comprehensive reform package' is likely to weigh on China's economic growth in the next 1-2 years," he added.


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