Page last updated at 05:09 GMT, Thursday, 22 January 2009

East Asia nations hit by downturn

Shenzhen port, south China. File photo
Global appetite for China's exports is drying up

China and South Korea have announced sharp falls in economic growth, in a further sign of the financial crisis sweeping through east Asia.

China said its GDP fell to 6.8% in the final three months of 2008, from 9% in the previous quarter.

South Korea said its economy shrank by 3.4% in the last quarter of 2008 compared with the year before.

Meanwhile, Japan reported that its exports plummeted 35% last month - the sharpest fall on record.

'Economic emergency'

The latest data on China's economic performance was announced by the country's statistics bureau.

The international financial crisis is deepening and spreading, with continuing negative impact on the domestic economy
Ma Jiantang, China's statistics bureau

It said the economic slump in the last three months of 2008 dragged down the pace of expansion for all of the year to 9%.

It said it was the slowest annual growth in the world's third-largest economy since 2001.

"The international financial crisis is deepening and spreading, with continuing negative impact on the domestic economy," Ma Jiantang, who heads China's statistics bureau, said.

Many economists are predicting that China will continue to suffer, the BBC's Chris Hogg in Shanghai reports.

Even officials admit the financial contagion has spread now from small- and medium-size enterprises to larger firms and from coastal provinces to China's heartland further west, our correspondent says.

China has already introduced a $586bn (420bn) stimulus package, cut interest rates five times since September, and lowered taxes.

But more will need to be done, our correspondent says.

In South Korea, the economy contracted by 3.4% in the last quarter of 2008 - its worst performance in more than a decade.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has already warned that his country was facing a state of "economic emergency".

And in Singapore, the government has predicted a contraction of between 2% and 5% in the economy this year.

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