(CNN) -- China's economic growth rose in the fourth quarter of 2012, helping the world's most populous nation end the year with a growth rate of 7.8%, according to figures released Friday from the National Bureau of Statistics.
Last quarter, China's economy grew at a pace of 7.9%, slightly better than analyst expectations and breaking a pattern of seven straight quarters of decline.
China's growth rate had been steadily falling since the fourth quarter of 2010, when economic output grew 9.8%. The slowing growth rate bottomed out in the third quarter of 2012, when China's economy only grew at 7.4%.
Last March, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao lowered the country's 2012 growth target from 8% to 7.5%. While such growth would be the envy of most nations, China's economy has grown at an average rate of about 10% each year for the past 30 years. This has helped propel China to become the world's second largest economy, just behind that of the United States.
China's leaders are widely expected to maintain its 7.5% growth target into 2013.
Adding to Friday's better-than-expected growth figures, China's industrial production increased to 10.3% year-on-year versus expectations of 10.2% growth. Retail sales rose 15.2% year-on-year, also a 0.1% point increase over expectations.