China’s economy swells

JAN. 21–BEIJING–China’s economy grew a surprising 9.9 percent in the final quarter of last year, the Communist country’s National Bureau of Statistics reported in late January, signaling a quick recovery from SARS-induced economic fallout and foreshadowing a favorable outlook for 2004.

Investment and foreign trade helped drive the country’s annual gross domestic product growth to 9.1 percent, according to the official figures released by the bureau.

At $1.4 trillion (11.7 trillion yuan), full-year GDP growth was the highest since 1997, Li Deshui, the bureau’s commissioner said at a January 20 press conference
“It was a hard-won successful achievement after the outbreak of SARS epidemic and frequent natural disasters, Li says, adding that he and other officials are pleased to see rapid economic growth, a stable consumer price index and improvement in employment.

Economic growth is China’s main goal, and it has pledged to its citizens fast development and increasing living standards.

The full-year GDP rise exceeded market consensus, and was much higher than the 8.5 percent predicted by Xie Xuren, China’s State Taxation Administration commissioner.

For 2004, Li projected at least 7 percent growth, with a lively first quarter backed by continued investment. He also said consumer demand will be stronger, while export growth was likely to slow.

The pounding China received from severe acute respiratory syndrome last spring kept people and investors away for months, and caused equally rampant worry of long-term economic hardship

The strong fourth quarter and full-year GDP growth may raise further concerns that China’s economy may be overheating.

Li, however, explained that while some “select regions and select sectors” may be showing signs of overheating, the overall picture is sound.


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