By  on October 22, 2009

BEIJING – China’s economy grew by 8.9 percent in the third quarter of this year, the government announced, shoring up the notion that the world’s third-largest economy is on a road to recovery.

Still, questions remain about the sustainability of China’s recovery from the world economic downturn, with much of the growth dependent on massive government spending and public works projects. Central government leaders have not ruled out funneling more money into stimulus spending, and have repeatedly said recovery is in its initial stages.

In a news conference in Beijing, a spokesman for the National Bureau of Statistics said the country will achieve 8 percent overall growth this year, and that the country’s recovery to faster economic growth is due to proactive government policies. Spokesman Li Xiaochao said the government does not intend to change course and there will be no significant change in economic policy.

“We have stressed the proactive fiscal policy and appropriately relaxed monetary stance to keep consistency and stability in economic policy,” said Li.

A day earlier, the ruling State Council issued a statement saying it saw no need for changes in economic policy at this time.

“In the first three quarters, the pace of economic growth quickened,” the country’s de facto Cabinet said. "At the same time, we also are clearly aware that there are still difficulties and problems in the economic and social development of our country."

China’s years-long streak of double-digit growth began to slow markedly in the second half of last year, bottoming out at 6.1 percent in the first quarter of 2009. The growth began to rebound, to 7.9 percent in the second quarter, as government spending projects took hold and the financial crisis stabilized. Overall, the Chinese economy has growth by 7.7 percent in the first nine months of this year, compared with the same period last year.

The statistics bureau also said retail sales were up 15.5 percent from last year, while urban Chinese had 10.5 percent more disposable income than at the start of this year. Consumer prices, a worry amid last year’s economic overheating, were down by 1.1 percent since January. Industrial output rose by 8.7 percent in the first three quarters of this year.

Chinese economists greeted the numbers with cautious optimism, saying more time is needed to say China has pulled through the crisis successfully.

“It is too early to say if China has recovered from the financial crisis,” said Su Jian, deputy director of Peking University’s economics department. “Seven percent growth is not fast if you compare it with the growth rate before the world financial crisis. But it is certain.”

Wu Kangping, also with Peking University, said consumption typically rises near the end of the year, so fourth-quarter growth will be even higher. The government needs to monitor its monetary policy and other trouble spots to ensure healthy growth, he said.

“The crisis did not affect China’s economy too much -- just the parts related to other countries,” said Wu.

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