A stock investor gestures as he checks share prices at a securities firm in Fuyang, China, on Jan. 19, 2015
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January 20, 2015 12:27 AM EST

China’s economy expanded by just 7.4% in 2014, undercutting earlier official forecasts and registering the Asian superpower’s weakest economic growth in 24 years, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday.

Late last year, authorities released official forecasts putting growth in 2014 at 7.5%. Tuesday’s revelation marked the first time in 16 years that the country’s economic performance missed the government’s annual target. However, authorities have largely tried to paper over the misstep.

“China has entered a new normal of economic growth,” Li Baodong, a Vice Foreign Minister, told reporters on Friday, according to Agence France-Presse. “That is to say we are going through structural adjustment and the structural adjustment is progressing steadily.”

Yet experts were not so quick to downplay China’s soaring debt, weak and volatile real estate market and plummeting domestic demand.

“Among all the problems, the biggest one is low domestic demand and the other is overcapacity. And when the global economy is not great, exporting is affected,” Chenggang Xu, a professor in economic development at the University of Hong Kong, tells TIME. “In the near future, we’ll see it slowdown further.”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted additional cooling of the world’s most populous nation’s economy in 2015, and suggested that growth would drop well below 7%, reverberating in markets across the region.

Despite efforts by Beijing to reduce vulnerabilities from recent rapid credit and investment growth, this looming slump “is affecting the rest of Asia,” said the IMF report on Tuesday.

The release of China’s economic data for 2014 coincided with revised predictions on global economic growth from the IMF. On Tuesday, the institution ratcheted down expectations for the world’s economy in 2015, forecasting that growth this year would hover around 3.5%, down from their initial estimate of 3.8%.

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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