China’s economy, the world’s second-largest, recorded its slowest rate of growth in 13 years in 2012 as both domestic and global demand fell back.
The gross domestic product (GDP) measure for the year was down at 7.8%, against 9.3% in 2011, although Q4 data was more encouraging as growth edged up to 7.9% against 7.4% in Q3 suggesting the figure for 2013 is likely to stabilise at around 8% after a two-year slowdown. The strongest quarter in 2012 was Q1, when GDP expanded by 8.1%.
Incoming president Xi Jinping and premier Li Keqiang, who are expected to have their positions confirmed in March, have indicated that they want to promote sustainable economic growth and consumer spending. Their policy is contingent on stabilising the economy to maintain employment while avoiding an increase in inflation and a bubble in the property market.
Recent data suggests that this pro-growth policy is on track, with exports showing signs of recovery, stronger than expected industrial output and retail sales figures and healthy fixed asset investment levels. Industrial output last month was 10.3% higher than in December 2011 and retail sales rose by 15.2% year-on-year.
Having introduced a financial stimulus package largely focused on infrastructure investment in response to the 2008 financial crisis, there are now signs that the Chinese government is shifting more towards encouraging consumer demand.
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