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Booming Chinese Economy Accelerated in 2003 - 2004-01-20

China's booming economy accelerated in 2003 with a spike in growth in the past quarter. China announced that gross domestic product grew to $1.4 trillion in 2003, a 9.1 percent rise over 2002 GDP figures. GDP per capita increased to $1,090.

The head of China's statistics bureau, Li Deshui, said part of the growth was due to an increase in consumption, particularly in urban areas. Mr. Li said that consumer spending on luxury products such as electronics and cars boosted growth. The full-year GDP rise exceeded the 8.5 percent growth rate predicted by China's State Taxation Administration.

But many economists said they had forecast higher growth figures for 2003. Some suggested that China's official figures underestimate growth to avoid the appearance that China's economy is overheating, resulting in a bubble.

China's economy accelerated in the final quarter of 2003, surging by 9.9 percent compared to the same period last year.

Mr. Li noted that the pace of growth picked up after China was cleared of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. The outbreak dominated the news and had a negative impact on investor confidence in the first half of 2003.

Mr. Li said he expects China's fast-paced economic expansion to continue well into 2004. He also rejected the idea the economy was overheating, saying that while some "select regions and select sectors" may be booming, the overall economy is sound.

Despite the optimistic outlook, China has been taking measures to rein in growth by asking regional banks to decrease lending and by limiting land use.