Chinese growth slowed sharply in the first quarter of the year, raising pressure on Beijing to provide a fresh round of government stimulus to prop up faltering growth in the world’s second-largest economy.
In the three months to the end of March, China’s gross domestic product expanded 7.4 per cent from the same period a year earlier, a slowdown from 7.7 per cent growth in the fourth quarter but faster than the 7.2 per cent pace that some analysts had predicted.
The expansion in the first quarter, revealed by China’s National Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday, was the slowest since the third quarter of 2012 when the government loosened monetary policy and accelerated infrastructure investment as growth dropped to 7.4 per cent.
Comparing the first quarter with the fourth quarter, growth appeared to slow even more, with quarter-on-quarter expansion of 1.4 per cent, compared with a 1.8 per cent pace in the fourth quarter.
Most now expect the economy to grow 7.4 per cent for the whole year, which would be the weakest full-year reading since 1990, when China was under international sanctions in the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Beijing has set a target of “about” 7.5 per cent growth for the year but the country’s leaders said that they would be comfortable with a lower rate provided that there are no major fluctuations and employment holds up.
In apparent response to the slowdown in the first quarter, Premier Li Keqiang (who would have been shown today’s figures at the start of the month) revealed a “mini-stimulus” on April 2 designed to reassure investors that Beijing will not allow the economy to go off a cliff.
The package included tax breaks for small businesses and accelerated pre-existing plans to build more roads, railways, government-subsidised housing and airports.
Last week Mr Li also pledged not to respond to “short-term fluctuations in growth” with the kind of heavy-handed stimulus rolled out during the global financial crisis.
New data showed Chinese industrial production slowed to an annual pace of 8.8 per cent, marking the slowest month for output since April 2009.The industrial slowdown played a major role in pulling Chinese GDP down to a pace of just 7.4 per cent in the first quarter。
Economists had been anticipating growth of 9 per cent.
The figures confirm sentiment surveys of the manufacturing sector that have shown a broad slowdown, particularly among companies without state backing.
中国国家统计局(National Bureau of Statistic)周三公布，今年头三个月里，中国国内生产总值(GDP)同比增长7.4%，增幅低于去年第四季度的7.7%，但高于一些分析师预测的7.2%。