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From VOA Learning English, this is the Economics Report.
Chinese officials say the national economy grew last year at about the same rate as in 2012. The 7.7 percent growth rate was the slowest growth China has reported since 1999. China’s economy is the world’s second largest. Ma Jiantang is director of China’s National Bureau of Statistics. He says it is no easy job to keep growth at over seven percent and to keep inflation low. He says this combination is unusual in the world. China’s economy had 10 percent growth rates in the years before the world financial crisis of 2008. That economic growth resulted from big trade surpluses and foreign investment. Now, says Ma Jiantang, China is working to balance exports with demand at home. Recently released information shows that household spending in China remains lower than in most economies. Some experts say businesses often buy goods for their employees to avoid taxes. This means companies are increasing demand for household goods by buying them directly. Chinese officials say they want to reduce the economic influence of state-controlled businesses and to let market forces shape the economy. However, economists expect China’s growth to slow in the coming years. The economic recovery in Western countries means rising demand for Chinese exports. One issue that might slow growth is the expanding local government debt. That debt is estimated at about one third of the economy. The central government is moving away from growth to areas such as environmental protection and containing debt. Experts say that could also weaken investment and slow growth.