BEIJING, Dec. 31 -- China's recent economic data signaling slower growth have led some observers to warn of possible distress after more than three decades of breathtaking, double-digit growth.
There are many signs of fatigue, they say, pointing to the cooling property market, soaring total debt and higher labor costs, which together could force a sharp fall in the growth rate of the world's second largest economy.
Of course, the problems in the Chinese economy should not be overlooked. Given the speed and scale of the country's growth in the past decades, policymakers have grown increasingly vigilant over structural risks that could be a drag on the economy in the long run.
Pessimists have on this point sounded an important note of caution, but their projections are wrong. The Chinese economy has emerged stronger than anticipated. It is likely to grow at around 7.5 percent this year, a still very high level, giving policymakers abundant room to push through painful reforms.
China's economy has entered a "new normal" of slower but higher-quality growth. From top leadership to small-business owners, the "new normal" status has become the new consensus.
The popularity of the catchphrase marks a shift in mindset of the Chinese people -- lower growth is likely to continue for a while and is not a sign of failure, but a lack of reform can be fatal to long-term sustainable growth.
For policymakers, they are less worried about missing official growth targets, but rather hold fast to the belief that giving up growth spurts for stringent reforms will eventually pay off.
A nationwide acceptance of and disenchantment with growth figures will help build a stronger economy -- slower growth but lower unemployment driven by innovation and services industry, compared with high growth and high unemployment in an economy led by investment and exports in the past.
The year of 2014 has seen promising signs of this transition -- the contribution of final consumption to economic output exceeded that of investment; the growth of the services sector continues to outpace that of the secondary industry. A consumption-led, services-driven economy is gradually taking shape.
Perhaps most notably, China's tech industry bloomed over recent years. Over a dozen Chinese Internet companies launched their initial public offerings in the U.S. stock market in 2014, among which Alibaba claimed the title of the largest global IPO ever.
The vitality of China's tech industry is a symbol of its economic sustainability, which stands in sharp contrast to some investment-heavy traditional industries plagued with overcapacity. While going hardly noticed, innovation is quickly changing the face of the Chinese economy.
Regulators are ready to add momentum to building an innovative economy. They have vowed to streamline administrative approvals, loosen interest rates and provide micro-financing to support small businesses.
As pledged in late 2013, Beijing is poised to let market play a decisive role in the economy. Reform steps will be taken on land, taxes, state-owned enterprises and household registration system, and anti-graft campaigns will be continued. All these measures will together help unleash great potential for future growth.
The episode of super rapid growth has apparently come to an end for China, leaving the current leadership with opportunities as well as challenges. The world must be patient to see how China adapts to the change.