China’s economy has started 2017 with its strongest quarterly performance in 18 months, on the back of a surge in industrial activity, property investment and credit growth. The country’s gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 6.9 per cent in the first quarter of 2017, slightly higher than analysts’ consensus expectations. Growth was strongest towards the end of the three-month period, suggesting that momentum was building into the second quarter of 2017. The strength of China’s industrial sector was augmented by growth in Chinese credit — including shadow lending outside the formal banking sector — and a bullish turn in commodities that began last year. The seeming stability of China’s official growth figures can mask big swings in the world’s largest economy. Real GDP growth for the first three months of 2017 was the strongest since the third quarter of 2015, while nominal growth was the highest since March 2012. This quarter’s positive figures come in a year of expected consolidation of power by President Xi Jinping, whose second term as head of the ruling Communist party will begin later this year following the country’s 19th national congress.