Analysts have pointed toward the recovery on the mainland.
"Growth momentum in China has actually improved a little bit in the second half of the year, led by the improvement in the industrial sectors and also the financial market recovery [in] year-on-year growth terms," Li Wei, a China economist at CBA, told CNBC's "The Rundown" on Friday before the data's release. "We think China's economy has entered this year, 2017, on a firmer footing."
But he noted that China's economic performance this year would depend on the global recovery, particularly whether the mainland's exports pick up. He estimated that declining exports had shaved 0.5 percentage point from China's GDP growth in 2016. If exports to the EU and US recover, that would turn "flat," and China's 2017 economic growth could pick up to around 6.8 percent, Li said.
Other data released on Friday also appeared to paint a less gloomy picture of the economy.
China's retail sales for December rose 10.9 percent on-year, slightly ahead of a Reuters poll forecasting 10.7 percent.
Industrial output for December rose 6.0 percent on-year, a tad below a Reuters poll forecast for 6.1 percent.
For the full year, fixed-asset investment rose 8.1 percent, slightly below a Reuters poll forecast for 8.3 percent, with Reuters noting that was the slowest pace of growth since 1999, during the Asian financial crisis