The figure was the slowest in the People's Republic since the 3.8 percent of 1990, a year after the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown rocked the country and isolated it internationally.

The performance of China, a major driver of the world economy, is a crucial concern for global investors, and its fourth-quarter growth also slowed to 6.8 percent, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said, the softest reading since the global financial crisis.

Both figures matched the median forecasts in an AFP survey of 18 economists.

China's services sector accounted for 50.5 percent of GDP in 2015, the NBS said in a statement, the first time it was more than half the economy.

Last year's growth figure was well below the 7.3 percent recorded in 2014, and the AFP survey projected it would fall further this year, to 6.7 percent.

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