BEIJING — China’s economy posted a forecast-beating growth rate in the first quarter of 2017, with GDP up 6.9 percent from a year ago, official data showed on April 17.
The reading, the quickest increase in 18 months, was above the full-year target of 6.5 percent and the 6.8-percent increase registered in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
GDP reached 18.07 trillion yuan ($2.63 trillion) in the January-March period.
NBS spokesperson Mao Shengyong said the economy had achieved a rosy start this year, during a conference.
“Generally speaking, the national economy has continued with stable and sound momentum in the first quarter as growth rebounded moderately and economic adjustment was steadily promoted,” Mao said.
He mainly attributed the strong performance to robust factory activity, strong consumption and rebounding exports.
GDP was up 1.3 percent on a quarter-on-quarter basis.
Beside the headline figures, other major indicators also showed a resilient economy.
The value-added industrial output expanded 6.8 percent year on year in the first quarter, compared with the 5.8-percent increase in the same period a year ago, and the fixed-asset investment grew 9.2 percent, quickening from the 8.1 percent registered in the whole 2016.
China’s disposable income per capita stood at 7,184 yuan in the first three months, with nominal year-on-year growth of 8.5 percent. The increase was 7 percent if taking account of inflation.
The job market remained stable, with 3.34 million new jobs created and the surveyed unemployment rate staying under 5 percent.
“China’s economic structure is improving and new momentum is gathering,” Mao said.
The service sector rose 7.7 percent year on year in the first quarter, outpacing a 3-percent increase in agriculture and 6.4 percent in the secondary industry. It accounted for 56.5 percent of the overall economy.
Consumption, another significant driver of economic growth, contributed to 77.2 percent of the GDP increase in the first quarter.
Mao said the Q1 data showed that China had laid a solid foundation to realize its full-year economic target, but still warned of risks from an complicated external environment and domestic structural problems.
The government trimmed this year’s growth goal to around 6.5 percent last month from a range of 6.5 to 7 percent for 2016, a move expected to provide more wiggle room for reforms.
The world’s second largest economy rose 6.7 percent year on year in 2016, the weakest annual expansion in 26 years but still an enviable pace around the globe.
Mao expressed his confidence on China’s economic outlook, citing increasing stability and untapped growth potential.
“There will be steady reform dividend and the economy has enormous potential in the medium to long term,” he said.