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Last Updated: Monday, 2 January 2006, 09:55 GMT
China growth set to beat forecast
A model showing off a new Mercedes car in Beijing
China's economic growth has boosted disposable wealth
China's economy maintained its stellar growth last year, official figures have confirmed, expanding 9.9% in 2005.

China has now seen three consecutive years of 10% growth and its economy shows no signs of slowing down despite government efforts to restrain it. Total economic output rose to 18.2 trillion yuan ($2.25 trillion) as soaring exports fuelled the country's growing trade surplus.

Experts said China may now be the world's fourth-largest economy.

China's economy recently overtook Italy, in terms of size, and may also have leapfrogged the United Kingdom and France, analysts said.

The latest growth figures were stronger than were expected last year. The Chinese authorities have sought to control growth in state-run industries, such as construction, which have largely driven China's economic boom.

However, much of the recent expansion in the Chinese economy has come from the private sector in areas such as services and banking.

"The figures show that the national economic situation was fairly good in 2005," said Li Deshui, commissioner of the National Bureau of Statistics.

"In particular, the stability of the economic performance was strengthened to some extent and progress was seen in more balanced development."

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