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Historic level of economic growth
( 2003-10-17 01:02) (China Daily)

China's economy grew by 9.1 per cent in the third quarter compared with a year ago, indicating it has shrugged off the negative impact of the SARS outbreak.

For the first three quarters, the economy grew a year-on-year 8.5 per cent to 7.91 trillion yuan (US$953 billion).

The overall economic situation is the best on record for several years, according to Qiu Xiaohua, deputy director of the National Bureau of Statistics.

During the January-September period, fixed asset investment rose a year-on-year 30.5 per cent to 3.44 trillion yuan (US$413.9 billion), while retail sales of consumer goods reached 3.27 trillion yuan (US$394 billion) -- a year-on-year increase of 8.6 per cent.

Exports rose 32.3 per cent compared with a year ago to US$307.7 billion, while foreign direct investment rose 11.9 per cent to US$40.2 billion.

The consumer price index, the key inflation gauge, rose 0.7 per cent in the first nine months compared with 2002, showing inflation was still in manageable territory.

"If there are no major unexpected fluctuations, the country's economy is likely to grow by 8.5 per cent for the whole of 2003,'' predicted Qiu.

But he admits the country's economy remains plagued by problems and that measures are needed following rapid lending and credit growth.

"The difficulty in raising rural incomes that has bedevilled the economy for a long time, the relatively large unemployment pressure and other contradictions are all still problems,'' Qiu said.

Unbalanced development between investment and consumption, urban and rural areas and industrial output and energy have become more pronounced, he said.

Fan Gang, director of the National Economic Research Institute, said the government should also watch out for an overheated economy and possible inflation, resulting from the fast growth of fixed asset investment and exports.

"If the economy grows at more than 10 per cent, it will became overheated and inflation would loom,'' Fan said.

"If there was no SARS outbreak, the country's economy would have grown by more than 10 per cent this year.''

Zhang Liqun, a senior researcher with the State Council's Development Research Centre, said the Chinese economy will continue to develop rapidly in the coming several years, as market forces have begun to play a leading role in economic development.

"No one can underestimate the country's solid development foundation formed by reforms and opening up, the comprehensive effects created by the country's efforts to expand domestic demand and the central government's ability to control the overall economy,'' he said.

Qiu said China is capable of maintaining an average annual economic growth rate of 7 per cent before 2020.

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