China's economy grew at its slowest pace in six years last quarter, according to data released Wednesday, raising fresh concerns over the condition of the world's second largest economy.
Growth declined to 7 percent in the first quarter of 2015, down from 7.3 percent in the previous quarter. That is the slowest quarterly growth rate since early 2009 during the aftermath of the global financial crisis.
China's ruling Communist Party has set a modest target of 7 percent growth for 2015. While that rate of expansion would be among the fastest of any major economy, it would be China's slowest pace in a quarter of a century.
Reacting to th
e figures, a spokesman for China's National Bureau of Statistics said Wednesday that Beijing expected the slowdown. He said the government attributes this to "sluggish global economic recovery" and "ongoing structural reforms," according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
"The new impetus is showing momentum, but in general it is still small in size although it grows fast," said NBS spokesperson Sheng Laiyun. "We still are relying on a traditional growth engine, and that is declining and has huge impact on our economy in the short term. We are in transition between the old and new growth models and we face the pressure of an economic downturn."
Chinese leaders have tolerated moderately slower growth, as they guide the country away from a trade- and investment-driven economy toward a more sustainable model based on domestic consumption.
If the economy slows too quickly, this could lead to a loss of jobs, which could create social and political instability in the nation of 1.35 billion people.
Responding to the slowdown, Chinese leaders have cut interest rates twice in recent months. It is not clear whether they will pursue more aggressive measures to further stimulate the economy.