China Inflation Eases, Economic Growth Slower


China's surging inflation and rapid economic growth have eased slightly amid government efforts to end food shortages and cool an investment boom, according to data reported Wednesday.

Consumer prices rose 8.3 percent in March compared with the same month last year, down slightly from February's 8.7 percent rate, the highest in nearly 12 years, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

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Premier Wen Jiabao, the country's top economic official, says taming inflation that has battered ordinary Chinese is the government's top priority.

He has promised to ease shortages of meat, grain, oil and other basic goods that are blamed for the sharp price rises.

Communist authorities worry about a possible political backlash if rapid price hikes continue.

Bouts of high inflation in the 1980s and '90s sparked protests -- an embarrassment that Chinese leaders want to avoid as they prepare for this summer's Beijing Olympics.

Economic growth in January-March quarter was 10.6 percent compared with the same period last year, according to the statistics bureau.

That was down from the 11.2 percent rate reported for the previous quarter.

China's economy grew by 11.9 percent last year, but analysts expect this year's expansion to slow to as low as 9 percent.