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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 April, 2003, 05:18 GMT 06:18 UK
China's economy rockets
Chinese perform an ancient martial art form with fans
China reaches for higher growth
China's economy grew by 9% in the first quarter of 2003, the fastest rate in six years, but faces a slowdown in the months ahead, the state press has reported.

The growth figures, due for official release on Thursday, come as ratings agency Standard and Poor's has warned that the Sars outbreak in China could be more economically damaging than the US-led war in Iraq.

"Nine percent growth is encouraging and indicates China's economy is entering a new boom cycle," the China Daily Business Weekly reported, quoting a senior official at the State Statistical Bureau.

Official statistics claim 8% growth for 2002, with 8.1% in the final quarter of last year.

Gross domestic product is expected to grow by more than 7% in 2003, according to previous estimates by the head of the National Bureau of Statistics, Zhu Zhixin.

Growth warning

Standard & Poor's said on Tuesday that Sars will cut growth in most of Asia in 2003, especially in Hong Kong.

China's state media on Tuesday reported 15 new Sars cases in Beijing, the highest number in one day.

China, the world's most populous country, has reported the most Sars deaths, currently numbering 64.

Economic figures

The China Daily Business Weekly said the economy is likely to slow later in the year due to weaker exports.

Growth this quarter was driven by infrastructure investment, the paper said.

On Monday, the Ministry of Commerce reported that China attracted $13.1bn in direct foreign investment in the first quarter, a 57% jump on a year ago.

China's industrial output rose 17.2%, fixed-asset investment jumped 27% and foreign trade was up 40% in the quarter, the China's Economic Observer said on Monday.




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