That compared with a 20.1% on-year increase seen in December and a 38.3% on-year slump in the first two month of 2020, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.
The figures combine data for January and February to exclude distortions caused by the week-long Lunar New Year, which fell in February this year.
China managed to contain the COVID-19 pandemic before many of its peers last year, making it the only major economy to post full-year growth in 2020, with an expansion of 2.3%.
Beijing has set a modest annual economic growth target at above 6% this year, well below analyst expectations. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has defended the target, saying China is focused on consolidating its economic recovery and that setting hugely different growth targets from year to year would “disturb” market expectations. ($1 = 6.5412 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Stella Qiu and Ryan Woo. Writing by Roxanne Liu; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)