China's top priority is to boost domestic consumption to maintain relatively strong economic growth, at the same time increasing imports from other Asian countries, Vice Premier Li Keqiang said on Monday.

While some Asian countries face downward pressure on growth and inflationary pressure, China's economic fundamentals remain good, Li said.

China's government will stick to its policy goal of stabilising economic growth while curbing inflation, Li said.

The fundamentals of the Chinese economy remain good and the momentum of economic growth has not changed. We will be able to maintain steady and relatively fast development in the long term, Li said in a speech at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Boao Forum for Asia on the southern Chinese island of Hainan.

Expanding domestic consumption is our top priority in adjusting the economic structure, said Li, who is widely expected to succeed Wen Jiabao as premier in a leadership transition that begins later this year.

But he sounded a note of caution on the global economy.

The world economy is showing some signs of recovery, but the deep impact from the global financial crisis has not disappeared and Europe's sovereign debt crisis lingers, he said.

China's big factories were surprisingly busy in March as a stream of new orders lifted activity to an 11-month high, but credit-constrained smaller manufacturers struggled, suggesting that the economy is still losing steam.

Annual economic growth is widely expected to slow to just over 8 percent in the first quarter from 8.9 percent in the previous quarter - the fifth consecutive quarter of slower growth.

Meanwhile, annual inflation slipped to a 20-month low of 3.2 percent in February. But policy-makers remain particularly sensitive to high commodity prices, given China's huge imports of raw materials.

But Chinese leaders have shown greater tolerance for slower economic growth, putting more emphasis on structural adjustments to ensure the economy can sustain long-term expansion.

Premier Wen Jiabao has cut China's 2012 growth target to an eight-year low of 7.5 percent and made boosting consumer demand the top priority.

During the opening ceremony of the Boao meeting, an Asian version of the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Li also said China would deepen its bilateral and multilateral relations with trading partners and develop more free trade zones.

China's steps to spur domestic demand will help expand its imports from the rest of Asia, Li said, adding that the country will continue to balance its trade over time.

On Sunday, Li met with Taiwan's vice president-elect Wu Den-yih, with sources attending the meeting saying both sides were positive about boosting trade and financial ties, such as currency settlement issues.

Li reaffirmed Beijing's determination to forge ahead with market-oriented economic reforms and opening up to help sustain the country's economic growth.

(Editing by Michael Watson)