The China Caixin manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) climbed in December, marking its fastest rate of improvement in three years, figures released Tuesday showed.
In December, the Caixin PMI reading came in at 51.9, up from November's 50.9. A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while a reading below signals contraction.
That compared with China's official manufacturing PMI, released Sunday, coming in at 51.4, down slightly from November's 51.7.
The official non-manufacturing PMI, which takes a reading on the services sector, came in at 54.5 in December, down from November's 54.7.
The official figures tend to focus on larger companies, while the private Caixin data focus on smaller and medium-sized firms.
The data likely indicated that the mainland economy, which had been expected to slow, was stabilizing.
"A further rise in production at Chinese manufacturers supported the higher PMI reading in December. Notably, the rate of output growth accelerated to a 71-month high, with a number of panelists commenting on stronger underlying demand and new client wins," the Caixin data statement said.
"Data indicated that improved domestic demand was the key driver of new business growth, however, as new export sales were unchanged in December."
While the manufacturing PMI data tends to be more closely watched, China's pivot toward domestic consumption and away from manufacturing- and investment-led growth means the service sector, which includes consumer industries such as real estate, retail and leisure, has become the majority of the mainland economy. It is also a key barometer of consumption, accounting for more than 50 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
Concerns have persisted over the mainland economy's health, as private-sector debt has surged even as the amount of growth from additional debt has declined.
But the economy in recent months has received a fillip from a pickup in the property sector.