China's economic growth rebounded in the latest quarter, easing pressure on communist leaders for more stimulus and allowing them to focus on longer-term reforms.
The world's second-largest economy grew by 7.8% in the three months ending in September, compared to a year earlier, boosted by higher government spending, data showed today. That was up from a two-decade low of 7.5% the previous quarter.
"The fundamentals of China's economy are turning for the better," said National Bureau of Statistics spokesman Sheng Laiyun.
The improvement eases pressure on communist leaders who say their priority is longer-term reforms aimed at steering the economy to slower, more sustainable growth based on domestic consumption instead of exports and investment.
The abrupt drop in global demand for Chinese goods prompted them to backtrack temporarily and launch a mini-stimulus of higher spending on railway construction and other public works to prop up growth and avoid politically dangerous job losses.
Communist leaders are due to meet next month to craft an economic development blueprint that reform advocates hope will include market-opening and more financial support to private entrepreneurs.
The country's senior economic official, Premier Li Keqiang, said earlier that Beijing would try to keep growth above 7.5%. That is far above levels forecast for the US, Europe and Japan but barely half of 2009's 14.2% growth.
Analysts have warned the rebound might not last because growth depends on government spending. Global demand is weak and Chinese consumer spending is growing more slowly than Beijing wants.
Today's data highlighted the economy's heavy reliance on government-led investment and the weakness of trade.
Spending on factories and other fixed assets contributed 55.8% of the latest quarter's growth, or 4.3% points of the 7.8% expansion, according to Sheng.
September exports suffered a rare and unexpectedly sharp decline of 0.3%, falling short of forecasts. Surveys of manufacturers show September activity barely expanded.
The International Monetary Fund is forecasting Chinese growth this year of 7.6%, which would be the weakest performance since the early 1990s.
Some private sector analysts have cut their growth forecasts for next year to below 7%.
In an apparent effort to lower expectations, Finance Minister Lou Jiwei said in June that growth as low 6.5% might be acceptable.
In a positive sign for the ruling party, the economy created 10 million jobs in the first three quarters of the year.
Factory output in September rose 10.2% from a year earlier, up 1.1 percentage points from the first half's growth rate, according to statistics bureau data.