China said on Monday (January 20) that its economy grew 7.7 percent in 2013 after easing in the final three months on sagging investment growth, a cooldown that some analysts say is a sign of the more sober times ahead as the government wrestles to implement major reforms.
A suite of data showed growth in factory output and investment in the world's second-largest economy lost steam in December, dragging overall economic growth in the fourth quarter to a six-month low of 7.7 percent.
That left 2013 growth in the 56.9 trillion yuan (£5.72 trillion) economy unchanged from revised levels in 2012, but helped it to narrowly miss market forecasts for activity to hit a 14-year trough of 7.6 percent.
After 30 years of sizzling double-digit economic growth that lifted many millions of Chinese out of poverty but also devastated the environment, China wants to change tack by embracing sustainable and higher-quality development instead.
Any change is expected to come at a cost of more muted economic growth, a price Beijing says it is willing to pay.
With China stepping up its efforts to remake its economy by promoting domestic consumption at the expense of exports and investment, some analysts predicted that the world's second-largest economy may lose further momentum this year.
"We are in the comforting background that you can push for reform because the growth momentum is quite stable. But the cautious side is that if you compare the third quarter versus the fourth quarter, I will say there was some slowdown in the fourth quarter. So in that sense I will say the concern is that if you particularly focus on the the structural reform, the near term impact on growth may be negative. So in that sense, how to combine these two policy objectives -- reform and growth -- that is still a tough question for the policymakers," said Zhu Haibin, chief China economist and head of Greater China Economic Research at J.P. Morgan.
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