China's manufacturing activity grew at the fastest pace since 2012 in September as factories cranked up output to take advantage of strong demand and high prices, easing worries of a slowdown before a key political meeting next month.
Production, total new orders and output prices all improved to the highest level in at least a year, while a pick-up in a reading for the construction sector indicated a building boom is undiminished.
The official Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) released on Saturday rose to 52.4 in September, from 51.7 in August and well above the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis.
It marked the 14th straight month of expansion for China's massive manufacturing industry and the highest reading since April 2012. Analysts surveyed by Reuters had forecast the reading would ease slightly.
The data comes ahead of the Communist Party Congress in mid-October, a once-every-five-years meeting where new leaders are appointed and the government's key political and economic initiatives are laid out, though details are usually not announced until much later.
China's manufacturers are reporting their best profits in years, fuelled by government-led infrastructure spending, a strong housing market, higher factory-gate prices and a recovery in exports.
"Over the short term, we believe the resilient demand growth and disciplined balance sheet expansion ... will point to further improvement in manufacturing profitability and investment returns," analysts at China International Capital Corporation said in a note after the data.
But cost pressures from high raw materials prices and continued underperformance of smaller firms mean some manufacturers are still struggling.