China's economic growth stayed relatively stable in the latest quarter, buoyed by strength in retail spending and exports and giving the ruling Communist Party a political boost as it prepares to appoint President Xi Jinping to a new term as leader.
Growth edged down to a still-robust 6.8 percent compared with a year earlier in the three months ending in September, down marginally from the previous quarter's 6.9 percent, government data showed Thursday.
Economic growth has been unexpectedly strong this year, but forecasters say activity will weaken as Beijing tightens controls on bank lending to cool a rise in debt.
Communist leaders are trying to steer China to slower, more sustainable growth based on consumer spending instead of exports and investment. Beijing has used repeated infusions of credit to prevent activity from slowing too abruptly, which has pushed up debt and delayed the economic rebalancing.
In a speech Wednesday at a ruling party congress, Xi said China's "prospects are bright but the challenges are grim" in a rare acknowledgement of severe economic issues. He said the party would have to take big risks and overcome "major resistance."
Thursday's data showed retail sales rose 10.3 percent in September over a year earlier, down slightly from the 10.4 percent rate of the first three quarters, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
That was helped by a 34.2 percent rise in online commerce over a year earlier, an 8.1 percent improvement over the same period of 2016.
Trade data reported earlier showed export growth accelerated in September to 8.1 percent from August's 5.5 percent.
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