Gross domestic output rose just 2 percent from the previous quarter, suggesting to some economists that underlying momentum is slowing more rapidly than headline data implies.
The fourth-quarter growth rate was the slowest pace since the second quarter of 2009, when the global economy stumbled out of a deep recession. It also marked the fourth straight quarter in which growth had slowed down.
The data showed net exports subtracted from 2011 growth while consumption contributed more than half.
Annual growth in property investment at 12.3 percent in December, marked a sharp slowdown from November's 20.2 percent pace, a worrying signal for a sector worth some 13 percent of total economic output.
Housing investment dropped precipitously in December, and many property developers have warned that 2012 looks grim.
A booming housing market helped drive China's explosive growth in recent years, but Beijing has tried to cool prices in hopes of avoiding a devastating bubble and bust.