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China’s economy expanded by 9.2 percent in 2011 from a year earlier and 8.9 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter, according to

Citing the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the report said quarterly growth was the slowest in 10 quarters. China set its full-year growth target at 8 percent in early 2011 after its economy grew 10.4 percent in 2010.

The country’s economy expanded 2 percent in the fourth quarter on a quarterly basis, NBS chief Ma Jiantang said at a press conference.

The economy grew 9.1 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2011, compared to 9.5 percent in the second quarter and 9.7 percent in the first quarter.

According to preliminary statistics, the country’s GDP reached 47.16 trillion yuan (USD$7.26 trillion) in 2011, Ma said.

He said the country’s economic performance in 2011 was “a good start” for the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) period and is in line with macroeconomic regulations.

For investors, the figures can also be interpreted as good news. Boosted by the data, China’s stocks surged 4.18 percent on Tuesday’s close, the most since September 3, 2009.

“We should no longer be obsessed with the speed of growth,” said Lu Zhongyuan, deputy director of the Development Research Center of the State Council, or China’s cabinet. He predicted the expansion of China’s GDP will decelerate to around 8.5 percent in 2012.

A report released Tuesday by the Center for Forecasting Science under the Chinese Academy of Sciences also predicted growth of 8.5 percent for this year.

The NBS chief said the country faces a highly complicated external environment in 2012, as the economies of the European Union and the United States remain sluggish, the global financial market is experiencing turbulence and protectionism is on the rise.

There are also a number of domestic risks, including mid- and long-term upward price pressures and funding shortages for small businesses, as well as structural changes intended to enhance energy-saving and emission reduction, he added.

“Although GDP growth fell on a quarterly basis, it was within a reasonable range and the country’s economic fundamentals were not changed. We have confidence for 2012’s growth,” said Ma.

He said the country’s urbanization process, the development of its market economy and industrialisation have provided exhaustive forces for growth.

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