China's first quarter growth beats expectations at 6.9%

China's first quarter growth beats expectations at 6.9%

China's economy grew by 6.9% in the first quarter of 2017, according to official figures.

The growth rate, which compares expansion with the same three months in the previous year, was slightly higher than many economists had forecast, BBC reports.

State-led infrastructure spending and demand for new property helped drive the world's second largest economy.

An ethnic minority man poses for a selfie on Tiananmen Square outside the Great Hall of the People ahead of the opening session of the National People's Congress in Beijing, 5 March

Last month China cut its growth target for this year to 6.5% from 6.7% in 2016.

China's National Bureau of Statistics in a statement said "the national economy maintained the momentum of steady and sound development from the second half of last year, getting off to a good start in 2017 and laying a solid foundation for accomplishing the whole-year growth target."

Another set of data also suggests a pick-up in domestic consumption. February retail sales jumped 10.9% from the previous year.

While we should always remain sceptical of the Chinese government's GDP data, these figures suggest that growth is stabilising.

But they also demonstrate that Beijing is relying on the same old tricks to drive its economy.

Government spending on infrastructure, a booming property market and taking on debt were all things China's leadership has pledged to move away from in the transition towards a new, modern, open economy.

All three are still evident in this data, suggesting that the "old" model of growth - that relies so much on the state - is alive and well.

In particular, debt is a concern. China's total and private debt is now worth more than 250% of GDP and looks set to grow. Analysts are divided about just how equipped China is to handle that much debt, but whatever your view even the government has said that accumulating this much debt isn't ideal and must be addressed.

The question is just how much political appetite there will be to accept a less-than-glamorous growth rate in a year when President Xi Jinping has arguably his most important party congress coming up.