BEIJING — Despite an unexpected bump in the last quarter of the year, China’s economic growth slowed to its lowest level in 13 years, according to figures released Friday.
The National Bureau of Statistics reported that the country’s gross domestic product grew by 7.8 percent in 2012, its slowest pace in more than a decade. The statistics bureau did not raise any alarms about the lessened pace of growth, and the lower rate was expected based on quarterly reports released throughout the year. The growth rate was in stark contrast to 9.2 percent growth in 2011.
“Overall the economy has been stabilizing,” the statistics bureau said in a statement releasing the year-end economic growth data.
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The GDP grew by 7.9 percent in the final quarter of 2012, signaling a possible rebound in weakened growth on the back of rebound in manufacturing. While the country’s central government leadership has spoken of the need to rebalance China’s overall economic structure, the growth rate did not appear to cause major concern. A spokesman for the statistics bureau noted that growth all year had hovered around 7.4 percent, so the final tally indicated a pickup.
State-run media reported on Friday that the government had targeted 7.5 percent growth for the year, so the figures appear to be in line with what was expected.
The World Bank, meanwhile, projected earlier in the week that China’s growth will rebound significantly this year, predicting a growth rate of 8.4 percent for 2013.
Several key indicators were up in the fourth quarter, according to the statistics bureau. Retail sales, for instances, increased by more than 15.2 percent over the same period in 2011, while industrial production was up by more than 10 percent.
As China’s new central leadership assumes power, its economic planners must grapple with shifting the world’s second-largest economy into one based on innovation and creation rather than simple manufacturing — a structure that rocketed this country into a world economic power. No specifics have yet been unveiled, but the new leadership team is likely to discuss next steps closer to the opening of the National People’s Congress in March.