This file photo taken on March 17, 2014 shows the production lines of carmaker BAIC Group in Huanghua, north China's Hebei Province. China's economy grew 7.4 percent year on year in the first quarter of 2014, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed on Wednesday. The NBS said that preliminary data showed the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) reached 12.8213 trillion yuan (2.08 trillion U.S. dollars) in the first quarter. (Xinhua/Mu Yu)
By Li Laifang, Lyu Dong and Mou Xu
BEIJING, April 16 (Xinhua) -- China's 7.4 percent economic growth in the first quarter has dismissed fears about a possible "hard landing" of the world's second-largest economy, as some pessimists predicted.
Though it was the lowest quarterly rise since the third quarter of 2012, growth was stable and the economy was generally in good health, said the National Bureau of Statistics while announcing economic data on Wednesday.
China has set this year's economic growth target at about 7.5 percent. Last year, it saw 7.7 percent growth, the same rate as 2012 and the lowest since 1999.
Despite downward pressure in the short term, China's economy deserves far-sighted optimism, as opportunities and potential will arise from its restructuring, market-oriented reforms and opening up, which the top leadership has strived to promote.
"If you compare first quarter of this year to the same period last year and the year before, the first quarter has always been slower," said Kenneth Jarrett, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai.
"Data from the last 12 years show activities pick up quarter by quarter. It is a consistent pattern," Jarrett told Xinhua. "I don't sense at this stage any alarm, or great anxiety on the part of our members about what this means for full year likely results."
One source of confidence is the encouraging performance of the Shanghai free trade zone (FTZ), which saw 433 foreign-funded firms registered in the first quarter. The number nearly doubled that of the previous quarter.
By the end of March, the number of new foreign companies hit 661 in the zone with accumulated registered capital of 3.3 billion U.S. dollars, said zone authorities.
"They (foreign companies) are here for the long term. Even if they track data from month to month, quarter to quarter, the focus is on longer term trends," said the American businessman.
The Shanghai FTZ, established in September, has undergone a string of key reform measures, including easing cross-border use of China's currency, the renminbi, liberalizing interest rates on foreign currency loans, and facilitating offshore financing and outbound investment. The Chinese government expects the FTZ's experience to be copied in other regions.
The FTZ is part of a package of reform measures in the country and only needs time to reap the benefits for sustainable economic growth.
The Chinese government has vowed to abolish or delegate another 200 administrative approvals to governments at lower levels this year, following 416 administrative approvals that were abolished or delegated last year.