China has registered a solid growth track since 2003, and its economy has expanded quickly and in a stable manner, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said yesterday. Living standards have also improved considerably, as income levels have steadily increased since the 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China convened in 2002, according to the NBS. The economy expanded by more than 10 percent in each of the last four years, at an average of 10.4 percent. That is more than double the average growth rate of the world economy during the same period, and is higher than any period in China since reform and opening-up in the late 1970s. The economy remained stable as it steamed ahead. In the last four years, the growth rate never fluctuated by more than 1.1 percentage points. Meanwhile, consumer prices have also remained stable at about 2.1 percent per year. China's overall economic volume was the world's fourth largest in 2005. It was the sixth largest in 2002. The gap between China and the US, Japan and Germany - the top three world economies - has also narrowed in terms of gross domestic product (GDP). As its economy has grown, China now contributes more than 5.5 percent of the world's GDP, up from 4.4 percent in 2002. China's booming economy also saw its per capita income cross the threshold of US$2,000 for the first time in 2006. According to World Bank standards, China should no longer be considered a low-income nation, as its per capita income now resembles that of a middle-income country. While enjoying such rapid and stable economic growth, China has restructured its economy to increase the weight of its service sector in poorer western regions, the NBS said. By 2006, the service industry accounted for 40.1 percent of the economy, as retail sales increased by an average of 12.2 percent each year in the four years. Rural development China has found it easier to develop its rural regions due to the growth of fixed-assets investment. These investments often reflect the potential for development in a region, and have increased faster in the middle, western and northeast regions. In 2006, for example, fixed-assets investment in the middle provinces accounted for 19.3 percent of the national total, 1.6 percentage points higher than in 2002.