BEIJING (AP) -- Manufacturing in China grew at a slightly slower pace in December than the previous month, a Chinese government survey showed Sunday, following government controls on bank lending.
The National Bureau of Statistics reported that the country's manufacturing purchasing managers' index fell to 51.6 from 51.8 in November.
The index is based on a 100-point index on which the 50 mark divides expansion from contraction.
The survey found production and new orders were only slightly lower than in November but at 54 and 53.4 showed steady growth.
Zhao Qinghe, a senior statistician with the National Bureau of Statistics, said the data showed a continued improvement in the economic environment at home and abroad.
The PMI is a widely watched indicator of essential parts of China's economy, which expanded at a still-robust 6.8 percent annual pace in the third quarter.
The latest economic growth rate is a tick lower than the 6.9 percent growth in the previous three-month period.
Chinese economic growth has been unexpectedly strong this year, but economists forecast activity will weaken as Beijing tightens up on bank lending to clamp down on rising debt that analyst say is the biggest threat to the country's economic stability.
Since then, regulators have tightened controls over asset management companies and reined in the growth of a micro-lending industry. That triggered a fall in Chinese stocks.
Analysts also expect that manufacturing growth will also be affected in the coming months by restrictions on factory production in some areas and especially in heavy industries to reduce pollution.