* Prelim Q4 GDP +4.94% y/y vs Q3 +3.92% (Reuters poll +3.61%)
* Prelim full-year 2020 GDP +2.98% (2019 +2.96%)
* Taiwan grows faster than China for first time in 30 years (Adds details)
TAIPEI, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Taiwan’s economy grew at its fastest pace in almost a decade in the fourth quarter after a steep contraction earlier last year, as strong global demand for the island’s tech exports eased the pandemic hit.
Gross domestic product (GDP) grew 4.94% in the October-December period from a year earlier, preliminary data from the statistics agency showed on Friday, up from the third quarter’s 3.92% rise.
It was well above the 3.61% growth forecast in a Reuters poll and was the quickest rate of growth since a 6.72% rise logged in the first quarter of 2011.
For 2020, initial GDP growth was put at 2.98%, compared with 2.96% the previous year, making it one of the few major global economies likely to have grown that year, and higher than China’s 2.3% rise last year.
It was the first time Taiwan grew faster than China in a full-year since 1990, said statistics official Wu Pei-hsuan.
The government attributed the fourth quarter growth to surging exports especially of electronics, driven by new technologies such as 5G and by people working from home globally due to the pandemic.
Exports for electronics and telecommunications products both rose around 20% yearly in the quarter, the agency said.
Revised GDP figures will be given on Feb. 20.
Trade-dependent Taiwan has managed to keep the COVID-19 pandemic under control and avoid lockdowns, with life continuing more or less as normal. But borders remain largely closed and the island is currently grappling with a rare but small outbreak of domestic infections.
The tech-powerhouse island, home to the world’s largest contract chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) , has benefited from global demand for smartphones, tablets and computers from people forced to study and work from home in large parts of the world.
Taiwan’s export orders, a key measure of global technology demand for giants such as Apple Inc, rebounded sharply in 2020 hitting a record high. (Reporting by Jeanny Kao and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)