One of China's most-watched pieces of economic data has been scrapped because of the coronavirus. Shed no tears. The decadeslong practice of setting goals for annual increases in gross domestic product had long passed its sell-by date.

In recent years, officials had constructed squishy language around the target, suggesting they would rather be done with the circus. Premier Li Keqiang's address Friday finally eliminated it. "Our country will face some factors that are difficult to predict in its development due to the great uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the world economic and trade environment,” according to the text of his speech to the National People's Congress, the rubber-stamp parliament.

The pandemic, set to induce the biggest global slump in almost a century, presented an opportunity Beijing was probably eager to grasp. In recent years, it has sought growth in the vicinity of 6 percent. Putting forward another target like this, given the calamitous fall in social and commercial activity, would have looked ridiculous. Setting one that’s too low, meanwhile, would only undermine confidence in the leadership’s ability to engineer any decent revival.