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China's economy grows 11.9%

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- China's economy revved into high gear during the first quarter of 2010, growing 11.9% compared with a year ago, a spokesman for the National Statistics Bureau said Thursday.

The nation's gross domestic product -- a broad measure of economic output -- gained 1.2% from the fourth quarter of 2009.

"The momentum of national economic recovery has further expanded, which has laid a good foundation for reaching the targets set for the whole year," spokesman Li Xiaochao said.

The growth was fueled by industrial growth -- 22% for heavy industry and 14% for light industry -- and a nearly 18% expansion in consumer retail sales.

The figures mark a return to double-digit economic growth for China, which saw its white-hot economy slump to merely robust in 2009. China was able to maintain moderate economic growth even as the U.S. and Japanese economies were in recession last year.

In 2007, China's gross domestic product grew 13%.

Despite the explosive start to the year, Li tried to dampen expectations.

"This 11.9% is higher than the 8% target set by the National People's Congress set for the whole year but the latter half of the year will definitely face challenges because the base GDP figure of late last year is higher," Li said.

The high levels of economic growth China has been experiencing typically result in inflationary pressures, raising prices and ultimately slowing expansion.

"China's drivers of economic growth should become more balanced as policymakers seek to transition from rapid growth to longer-term stability," said Jing Ulrich, a China equities and commodities expert with J.P. Morgan. "Higher than expected inflation could necessitate more aggressive tightening, while global trade disputes could hinder the export recovery."

"Despite China's positive outlook, some risks remain to sustained economic recovery," Ulrich said. "Excessive tightening in the property sector could dampen home sales, which would be negative for commodities, employment and housing-related consumption."

-- CNN's Jo Lin Kent and Ed Payne contributed to this report. To top of page

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