Chinese appliance maker Haier says it has joined with General Electric in selling GE appliances to rural areas, the focus of subsidies intended to boost spending by hundreds of millions of farmers.

Haier, headquartered in the eastern city of Qingdao, is the world's fourth largest white goods manufacturer, employing more than 60,000 people globally.

The company's news office confirmed reports Friday citing its president, Yang Mianmian, as telling reporters in Beijing that the company began jointly selling GE appliances in the countryside last year.

Haier's own sales of appliances jumped 30 percent last year thanks to a government program that pays subsidies to rural dwellers who trade in old appliances to buy new ones. The subsidies are aimed at improving energy efficiency as well as encouraging spending by frugal farm families.

Haier's news office would not provide details about the program with GE and GE's China office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Yang's comments, made on the sidelines of China's annual legislative session, were widely reported on Chinese Web sites.

They said Haier, which was thought to be keen to acquire GE Appliances in 2008, was not at a stage of considering making such a purchase, according to Yang.

Haier, which claims a sales and service network able to reach 70,000 villages, says it has also joined with Hewlett-Packard Co. in rural sales through its Haier Ri Ri Shun Home Appliance Shops.