China's GDP growth last year tanked to its lowest level in more than a quarter century at 6.7 per cent, amid a scandal that a key province in the world's second-largest economy fudged data for years and concerns over a likely trade war with the US under Trump administration.
China's growth in 2016 was its slowest in 26 years, data released by the National Bureau of Statistics said on Friday.
The economy slowed down from 6.9 per cent in 2015, when it slipped below the 7 per cent but still well within the government's target range of 6.5-7 per cent. Growth in the fourth quarter ending in December came in at 6.8 per cent, a little higher from the 6.7 per cent in the third quarter. In its recent forecast, the IMF has projected China's economic growth this year to be around 6.5 per cent.
Ning Jizhe, Vice Chairman of National Development and Reform Commission and Commissioner of the NBS who released the data, said as per the IMF projections China will become the fastest-growing economy in the world.
The IMF has cut downd India's growth by one percentge point from 7.6 per cent, projecting China once again to become the fastest-growing economy in the world.
As per Friday's data, China's GDP totalled 74.41 trillion yuan ($10.83 trillion) in 2016, with the service sector accounting for 51.6 per cent, overtaking for the second year its fast slowing manufacturing sector, which in the past three decades fired the country to become a global export hub. China's $2 trillion exports, highest in the world, this year slumped for the second consecutive year in 2016 by 7.7 per cent.
The continued economic slowdown – stated to be the new normal but at a modest range - came under fresh scrutiny after the northeastern Chinese province of Liaoning admitted cooking up its books from 2011 to 2014.
"The fake fiscal figures influenced the central government's economic judgment and accordingly led to a lowering of the size of transfer payments to the province," Liaoning governor Chen Qiufa told the provincial legislature on Tuesday, citing a document from the National Audit Office.
It also meant local residents carried a higher tax burden because a bigger share of the province's funds went to central coffers, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
"Data distortion harmed the judgement of policymakers in 2016 when the government unleashed a hefty monetary and fiscal stimulus to shore up investment," it quoted Shen Jianguang, the chief economist at Mizuho Securities Asia, as saying. Asked about the falsification of the data by Liaoning province, Ning said strict action will be taken against those who doctored the figures. "We will be bring those responsible to justice and no leniency will be shown in this respect."
Liaoning, once a thriving base for heavy industry, reported a rare contraction in economic growth last year.
Struggling state-owned enterprises, a reluctance by both private and foreign companies to invest in the area and a population exodus have weighed down the province's economy.
Also, China's economic figures come as Trump takes over US presidency amid a tough talk on China-US trade ties which, according to Chinese state media, fanned fears of a trade war.