China's economy had a pretty great 2017

Posted January 17, 2018 11:29 p.m. EST

— China's economy had its foot on the gas in 2017.

Official data published Thursday showed the world's second largest economy grew 6.9% last year, beating analysts' earlier expectations. The performance was helped by government stimulus and an improving environment for global trade.

It's the first time since 2010 that China's official growth rate has bested the prior year. The economy grew 6.7% in 2016.

Healthy growth in 2017 was seen as particularly important. The year included a key gathering of China's ruling Communist Party, a showcase event that takes place once every five years and where President Xi Jinping was widely viewed as tightening his grip on power.

This year may not be as strong. Growth is expected to slow to 6.4%, according to an average of analyst forecasts compiled by Reuters.

But China's economy isn't losing much steam so far. In the fourth quarter of 2017, it grew 6.8%, the same pace as the previous three months.