China hit by slowdown in growth as leaders look to rebalance economy

China’s economic growth slowed further in the last quarter but appeared strong enough to satisfy the government which is trying to put the country on a more sustainable path without politically dangerous job losses.

The world’s second-largest economy grew by 7.4 per cent over a year earlier, down from the previous quarter’s 7.7 per cent, government data showed. It matched a mini-slump in late 2012 for the weakest growth since the 2008-09 global crisis.

Beijing is trying to guide the impetus for China’s economic growth towards domestic consumption instead of trade and investment following the past decade’s explosive expansion.

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The top economic official, Premier Li Keqiang, last week ruled out new stimulus and said leaders will focus on “sustainable and healthy development”.

“Chinese growth held up better than expected last quarter and there are signs that downwards pressure on growth has eased somewhat,” said analyst Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics.

Asian stock markets rose, with investors relieved the slowdown was not as severe as some analysts had forecast.

Retail sales and factory output were weaker than in the previous quarter but improved in March.

The latest growth is below the official annual target of 7.5 per cent announced last month. But Chinese leaders appear willing to miss that target so long as the economy creates enough jobs to avoid potential unrest.