China said Tuesday its economy grew at a slower pace in the third quarter as government efforts to tame inflation and turbulence in Europe and the United States curbed activity.
Gross domestic product in the world's second-largest economy grew 9.1 percent year-on-year in the quarter, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said, down from 9.5 percent in the second quarter and below analyst forecasts. Economists had expected year-on-year GDP growth of 9.2 percent, according to a Dow Jones Newswires survey.
Year-on-year growth in China has slowed for three straight quarters as Beijing -- anxious about soaring costs -- has restricted lending and hiked interest rates, while US and European demand for Chinese-made products has weakened.
Other economic indicators also suggested China -- the growth engine for the world since the 2008 financial crisis -- was losing steam just as the global economy teeters on the edge of another recession.
"Currently the economic growth is facing an even more complicated external and internal environment," NBS spokesman Sheng Laiyun said.
Despite the "increasing" uncertainty, Sheng told reporters at a briefing that the Chinese economy was "very likely" to maintain "stable and fast growth".
Industrial output growth from China's millions of factories and workshops slowed slightly to 14.2 percent in the first nine months of the year as the downturn in major export markets hurt the country's vast manufacturing sector.
For September alone, production expanded by 13.8 percent year-on-year compared with 13.5 percent in August.
Fixed asset investment, a key measure of government spending on infrastructure, rose 24.9 percent in the first nine months compared with the same period a year ago, down a notch from the first eight months of the year.
Retail sales rose 17.7 percent year-on-year in September and 17.0 percent in the first nine months of 2011.
On a quarterly basis, growth in gross domestic product accelerated to 2.3 percent in the third quarter over the second quarter.
"The Chinese economy continues to chug towards a soft landing," said Alistair Thornton, an analyst at IHS Global Insight in Beijing.
"The greatest downside risk facing China’s short-term outlook emanates from advanced economies," though "some cracks are also showing on the domestic front".
China has been the driving force for the global economy and the steady slowdown is likely to fuel concerns about its ability to help debt-laden eurozone countries and the United States.
But Beijing faces a policy dilemma of slowing growth and high inflation which has the historic potential to trigger social unrest in the country of more than 1.3 billion people.
Despite persistent efforts to rein in soaring household costs, inflation has hovered above six percent for several months and Sheng noted that "macroeconomic control policies should maintain continuity and stability".
The politically sensitive inflation rate dipped slightly to 6.1 percent in September but remained well above the official annual target of four percent.