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The reading, the quickest increase in 18 months, was above the full-year target of 6.5 per cent and the 6.8-per cent increase registered in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
GDP reached 18.07 trillion yuan ($2.63 trillion) in the January-March period.
NBS spokesperson Mao Shengyong said the economy had achieved a rosy start this year, during Monday’s conference.
“Generally speaking, the national economy has continued with stable and sound momentum in the first quarter as growth rebounded moderately and economic adjustment was steadily promoted,” Mao said.
GDP was up 1.3 per cent on a quarter-on-quarter basis.
Beside the headline figures, other major indicators also showed a resilient economy.
The value-added industrial output expanded 6.8 per cent year on year in the first quarter, compared with the 5.8-per cent increase in the same period a year ago, and the fixed-asset investment grew 9.2 per cent, quickening from the 8.1 per cent registered in the whole 2016.
“China’s economic structure is improving and new momentum is gathering,” Mao said.
The service sector rose 7.7 per cent year on year in the first quarter, outpacing a 3-per cent increase in agriculture and 6.4 per cent in the secondary industry. It accounted for 56.5 per cent of the overall economy.
Consumption, another significant driver of economic growth, contributed to 77.2 per cent of the GDP increase in the first quarter.
China added 3.34 million new jobs in the first quarter, according to NBS data.
Mao believes the Q1 data shows that China has laid a solid foundation to realize its full-year economic target.
The government trimmed this year’s growth goal to around 6.5 percent last month from a range of 6.5 to 7 per cent for 2016, a move expected to provide more wiggle room for reforms.
The world’s second largest economy rose 6.7 per cent year on year in 2016, the weakest annual expansion in 26 years but still an enviable pace around the globe.