China said Friday its economy grew by 8.1 percent in the first three months of 2012, its slowest pace in nearly three years, as global turbulence curbed business activity. Gross domestic product in the world\'s second-largest economy grew 8.1 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said, compared with an 8.9 percent year-on-year expansion in the previous quarter. NBS spokesman Sheng Laiyun said China \"continues to maintain a moderate and relatively fast growth\" as he announced the figure, the lowest quarterly growth rate since the second quarter of 2009. China\'s annual growth slowed to 9.2 percent last year from 10.4 percent in 2010, as turbulence in Europe and the United States hit the export-driven economy. Over the past few months Beijing has pledged to \"fine-tune\" policy to prevent a hard landing for the economy, which could trigger widespread job losses and spark social unrest. The government said in March it had cut its economic growth target to 7.5 percent this year, in an official acknowledgement that the economy is slowing.