The manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI), a gauge of factory conditions, stood at 51.6 last month, the National Bureau of Statistics said, compared to 51.8 in November.
Anything above 50 is considered growth, while under 50 points to contraction.
China has curbed activity in heavy industries in the northeast to reduce surplus capacity and the heavy smog that typically blankets the region in late autumn and winter.
The index in December is on par with the annual average, still pointing to a strong resilience in China’s growth, according to NBS senior statistician Zhao Qinghe.
Sub-indexes for production and new orders came in at 54 and 53.4, respectively. However, the sub-index of raw material inventory stood at 48 in December, down 0.4 percentage points from November, indicating continuously decreasing raw material inventory in the manufacturing sector.
China’s manufacturing PMI has been in positive territory for 17 months in a row.
The data also showed that the country’s non-manufacturing sector expanded faster in December, with non-manufacturing PMI at 55 in December, up from 54.8 in November.
The service sector continued steady growth, with business activity index standing at 53.4 in December.
“Early indicators for December show China’s economy pushing into 2018 with growth steady, if unspectacular,” said Tom Orlik, Bloomberg chief Asia economist, as “the official purchasing managers’ indexes show the manufacturing sector slowing slightly and non-manufacturing sector picking up.”
“Growth remains remarkably robust, underpinned by resurgent global demand, stimulus-boosted infrastructure spending, and a deleveraging program that remains more honored in the breach than the observance.”
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