6.9% growth shows healthy economy
The world's second-largest economy grew by 6.9 percent in 2017 year-on-year to 82.71 trillion yuan (.84 trillion), the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Thursday.
It showed a stable and better-than-expected economy, NBS head Ning Jizhe said.
Growth in 2017 was 0.2 percentage points higher than the 6.7 percent recorded in 2016, a 26-year low. The growth rate marked the first acceleration in seven years and was well above the official target of around 6.5 percent.
In the past few years, China's GDP often decelerated by 0.3 to 0.5 percentage points a year.
In 2017, the Chinese economy shifted from a high growth period to a high quality growth period, Ning said.
"The rebound was achieved despite the constraints of supply-side structural reforms and rising environmental and financing costs, which indicates the healthy state of the Chinese economy," Liu Dongliang, a senior analyst at China Merchants Bank, said in a statement emailed to the Global Times on Thursday.
Supply-side structural reforms, a major task of the economic policies, made further progress, and economic transformation and industrial upgrade gained new results, Ning said, noting that consumption, the major driver of growth, contributed 58.8 percent to the GDP growth.
Retail sales, industrial output and fixed-asset investments rose by 10.2 percent, 6.6 percent and 7.2 percent, respectively, from the previous year. Real estate investments were also up 7 percent in 2017.
Foreign trade grew by 14.2 percent, reversing a downward trend for two consecutive years.
The Washington Post reported that retail sales in China in 2018 are expected to equal or surpass sales in the US, a notable marker in China's rise to economic superpower status.
"These phenomena are consistent with the GDP figures posted today, as the Chinese economy embarked on a track of consumption-fueled growth with a strong upward trend in the services sector," Lian Ping, chief economist at the Bank of Communications, told the Global Times on Thursday.
Lian noted that changes in consumption and services have been taking place during the past few years, and have begun to see notable results as disclosed by the media, saying "such trends will further strengthen in the years to come."
Room for adjustment
Also in 2017 there were a slew of science and technology breakthroughs, such as China's first large airliner, new-generation bullet trains, and deep-sea exploration. Growth of clean-energy vehicles and industrial robots outshone most other industries, Ning said.
China also filed the world's largest patent pool so far, according to a Xinhua report in December. The nation also overtook South Korea as the world's biggest shipbuilder.
Liao Qun, chief economist with China CITIC Bank in Hong Kong, said he expects future growth to be between 6.5 and 7.0 percent. The government is expected to continue to tighten its macro, monetary and fiscal policies to create more room to address issues such as overcapacity and debt in 2018, he said.
"In 2018, the biggest external risk facing China would be the protectionist policies waged by the US under President Donald Trump," Liao said.
The year 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of China' reform and opening-up and it is also the first year after the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
"The debate over speed and quality is now over, and China is willing to accept a relative slowdown in growth to give more emphasis to reforms," Liu said, noting that economic policy in 2018 will likely focus more on building a safe economic environment, rather than stimulating economic growth.