China's economic growth fell to its second-lowest level in at least four decades last year under pressure from anti-virus controls and a real estate slump, but activity is reviving after restrictions that kept millions of people at home and sparked protests were lifted.
The world's No.2 economy grew by three per cent in 2022, less than half of the previous year's 8.1 per cent rate, official data showed Tuesday.
That was the second-lowest annual rate since at least the 1970s after 2020, when growth fell to 2.4 per cent at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
China's slump has hurt its trading partners by reducing demand for oil, food, consumer goods and other imports.
A rebound would be a boost to global suppliers who face a growing risk of recession in Western economies.
Economic growth sank to 2.9 per cent over a year earlier in the three months ending in December from the previous quarter's 3.9 per cent, the National Bureau of Statistics said.
Consumer spending started to recover but still was weak in December after the ruling Communist Party abruptly ended its "zero-COVID" controls.
China's economic growth is in long-term decline after peaking at 14.2 per cent in 2007, hampered by hurdles including an ageing, shrinking workforce and growing curbs on Chinese access to Western technology due to security concerns.
The International Monetary Fund and private sector forecasters expect economic growth no higher than about four per cent through the rest of the decade.
In December, retail sales fell 1.8 per cent from a year earlier, but that was an improvement over the previous month's 5.9 per cent contraction.
Wary consumers are returning only gradually to shopping centres and restaurants amid a surge in COVID-19 infections that has swamped hospitals.
Investment in factories, real estate and other fixed assets in December rebounded to 0.5 per cent growth during the previous month following November's 0.5 per cent contraction.
"The good news is that there are now signs of stabilisation," said Louise Loo of Oxford Economics in a report.
Growth is forecast to improve this year to about five per cent. Economists point to weakness in real estate, an important economic engine, and slowing exports.