China's economy grew by 7.4 percent in the third quarter, missing the government's target and falling to its slowest rate of growth since the global financial crisis.
The figures released by the National Statistics Bureau on Thursday represent the seventh consecutive quarter of easing for the world's second largest economy.
Although 7.4 percent growth would be considered strong in many recession-struck countries, the figure is low for China, which has averaged annual growth rates of 10 percent for decades.
National Statistics Bureau spokesperson Shen Laiyun said part of the blame lies with the global financial crisis.
"China's external demand is getting increasingly smaller, which is placing a lot of pressure on China's economic growth, to the extent that our rate of economic growth has continued to go down," said Shen.
But Premier Wen Jabao is still optimistic China can reach its target of 7.5 percent growth for this year, saying on Wednesday the economy is stabilizing and has been "relatively good" the past three months.
With Thursday's figures, growth in China for the first nine months of 2012 is 7.7 percent, leading many economists to agree that the target will be met or exceeded.
The growth of China's economy has been slowing over the past year-and-a-half. China's economy grew by 7.6 percent in the April-to-June period, the slowest advance in more than three years.
In comments posted Wednesday on the central government's website, Wen said he is confident China's economy is stabilizing and will continue to show "positive changes."
The Chinese leader said the country's economic growth, much of it based on exports, "still faces considerable difficulty" in the last three months of the year.
Wen said it is "extremely difficult to expand external demand," an apparent reference to Europe's stagnant economy and sluggish growth in the United States.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.