The Chinese economic juggernaut slowed but still maintained double-digit growth in the first half of the year as it battled inflation and absorbed global setbacks, official data showed yesterday.
The world’s fourth-biggest economy expanded by 10.4 percent in the first half and 10.1 percent in the second quarter, the National Bureau of Statistics (NSB) said, down from the sizzling pace of 11.9 percent recorded for all of last year.
Bureau spokesman Li Xiaochao (李曉超) said domestic inflation, problems with food supplies and global economic woes were among the chief concerns for China.
“Pressure for rapid price increases remains high, there are factors constraining steady agricultural production,” Li said. “The international financial situation is severe and there are uncertainties in world economic development.”
Nevertheless, he said China’s economy remained strong and that the slowdown was under control.
“The national economy maintains the momentum of steady and fast growth,” he said. “This slowdown is in line with our expectations.”
NBS chief economist Yao Jingyuan (姚景源) said the economy would likely grow at 10 percent for the full year, although this was still above the target set by Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) of 8 percent.
China’s consumer price index — the main gauge of inflation — rose 7.9 percent in the first half of the year, with food prices soaring 20.4 percent, the bureau said.
However, inflation has come off 12-year highs seen earlier in the year, when it peaked at 8.7 percent in February, with economists saying the fall was due to a raft of economic tightening measures, including interest rate hikes.
Inflation was 7.1 percent last month, the bureau said.
Nevertheless, there were few expectations inflation would fall steeply enough to achieve the government’s full-year target of 4.8 percent.
“Certainly, the expectation for inflation is fairly strong ... due to price rises on the international market,” Li said.
China had already released data last week showing the nation’s trade surplus had fallen nearly 12 percent in the first half, as exporters struggled with the global economic slowdown, particularly problems in the US.
The appreciation of the yuan against the US dollar, as well as curbs such as tariffs on exports imposed by the government to rein in the surplus, also contributed to the decline.
Economists said Sichuan earthquake in May, which left 88,000 dead or missing, did not have a big impact on the economic growth numbers in the second quarter.
However, a huge post-quake reconstruction effort could lift the growth numbers in the short term, said Sherman Chan (陳穎嘉), an expert with Moody’s Economy.com.
“Rapid and large-scale reconstruction works in the next couple of years will provide a boost to economic activity,” he said.
Industrial output expanded by 16.3 percent in the first half and 16.0 percent last month alone, the bureau said.
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