China's economic growth edged down to 6.8 percent in the final quarter of 2015 as trade and consumer spending weakened, dragging full-year growth to its lowest level in 25 years.

Chinese leaders are trying to reduce reliance on trade and investment by nurturing slower, more self-sustaining growth based on domestic consumption and services. But the unexpectedly sharp decline over the past two years prompted fears of a politically dangerous spike in job losses. Beijing responded by cutting interest rates and taking other steps to shore up growth.

Full-year growth declined to 6.9 percent, the lowest level since sanctions imposed on Beijing following its crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement caused growth to plummet to 3.8 percent in 1990.

The October-December growth figure was the lowest quarterly expansion since the aftermath of the global financial crisis, when growth slumped to 6.1 percent in the first quarter of 2009. Growth in the July-September quarter of 2009 was 6.9 percent.

Investment in factories, housing and other fixed assets, a key economic driver, weakened to 12 percent in 2015, down 2.9 percentage points from the previous year. Retail sales growth cooled to 10.6 percent from 2014's 12 percent.

"The international situation remains complex," said Wang Bao'an, commissioner of the National Bureau of Statistics, as a news conference. "Restructuring and upgrading is in an uphill stage. Comprehensively deepening reform is a daunting task."