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China's GDP Grows at Slowest Rate Since 2009


A vendor waits for customers at his vegetable stall at a market in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, January 12, 2012. China's inflation rate eased to a 15-month low in December, though food prices are a reminder of the risks the government is weighing as it t

A vendor waits for customers at his vegetable stall at a market in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, January 12, 2012. China's inflation rate eased to a 15-month low in December, though food prices are a reminder of the risks the government is weighing as it t

China's economy grew at its slowest pace in two-and-a-half years during the final quarter of 2011, as Beijing fought chronically high inflation and faced weakened demand for its exports.

The growth of China's gross domestic product in the fourth quarter slowed to 8.9 percent, the slowest expansion since the second quarter of 2009. But the figure still exceeded many analysts' expectations, suggesting a soft landing for the world's second largest economy.

Overall, China's economy grew 9.2 percent in 2011. That is down from the previous year's figure of 10.4 percent. While growth is slowing, many experts say that China's economy is showing surprising resiliency to the global economic downturn.

National Statistics Bureau Chairman Ma Jiantang said the slowdown was in line with government plans to cool China's overheated economy. But he also warned that growth was likely to slow further.

"All the circumstances, including the domestic and international environment, increase many uncertainties in China's economic operation in 2012," Ma said.

Many analysts also predict that China's economy will continue to slow during the first six months of 2012.

But some say the stronger than expected fourth quarter growth may give Chinese policy makers the ability to delay any further moves to ease monetary policy.

Meanwhile, Ma said figures released Tuesday indicate China's urban population has surpassed the number of those living in rural areas for the first time.

"The portion of urban population to rural population rose to 51.27 percent, which for the first time put the urban population over 50 percent. This was 1.32 percentage points higher than that of the previous year."

Formerly an agrarian society, China has experienced rapid urbanization as farmers continue to leave their fields and factory jobs in search of higher salaries in the city.

Official figures suggest that China's rural population fell by 14.6 million in 2011.

China, which has the world's largest popopulation, is now faced with providing jobs, supplies and infrastructure and for its rapidly expanding number of city dwellers.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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