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China’s economy grows by 6.9% in 2017

  Factory chimneys fire smoke in Beijing, China Image copyright
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Planned pollution measures in China could affect growth future, analysts say

The Chinese economy grew by 6.9% in 2017 according to official data, the first time in seven years that the pace of growth has recovered.

The figure exceeds Beijing's official annual expansion target of approximately 6.5%.

China is a key driver of the global economy, so the better-than-expected data will probably encourage investors around the world.

But many observers in China believe that the GDP figures are much weaker than official figures suggest.

Only this month, the governments of Inner Mongolia and the big industrial city of Tianjin have admitted that their economic numbers for 2016 were exaggerated.

Taking the figures at face value, the 2017 growth rate is the highest in China in two years. And it represents the first time that the economy expanded faster than the previous year since 2010.

However, as Beijing increases its efforts to reduce risky debt and increase air quality, analysts say that this could affect the growth in 2018.

Figures released on Thursday also showed that in the last three months of 2017, the economy grew at an annual rate of 6.8%, slightly higher than analysts had expected.

Debt Concerns

China's debt has increased significantly in recent years, with worrying figures on local government loans, corporate and household debt and delinquent bank loans.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently said that the country's debt had skyrocketed and now amounted to 234% of total production. He said Beijing needed to focus less on growth and instead help improve banks' finances, among other efforts.

Meanwhile, Beijing says it has been taking measures to contain the risky debt despite the impact it could have on economic growth, efforts that the IMF said to recognize.

The government has promised to continue tackling local government debt, among other efforts, and on Thursday pledged to help state-owned companies "leverage and cut off debt … and pay their bonds on time this year."

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Blue skies and economic growth

China's strict anti-pollution measures, which were introduced in 28 cities last year, are also expected to hurt economic growth in the short term.

The measures have included closing or reducing production in heavy industry factories such as cement and steel.

Households have also been asked to switch to natural gas and coal electricity in an effort to curb pollution.

million people without adequate heating, so it was temporarily abandoned in December.

Chinese officials have said that Beijing's air quality improved markedly in the winter of 2017 and announced its efforts as a "new reality" for the country. [19659027]
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