BEIJING -  china 's direct overseas investment plummeted 35.7 percent year-on-year in January, official data showed Thursday, after officials rolled out rules to curb a record-setting spree of foreign acquisitions by Chinese firms.

The country's firms invested 53.3 billion yuan ($7.7 billion) abroad in January, Ministry of Commerce spokesman Sun Jiwen said in a statement posted on its website. Foreign direct investment into china also fell 9.2 percent on-year in the month, he said.

The government last year blasted "irrational" spending and began introducing tightened restrictions on overseas spending amid concerns over capital flight, reckless investment , slowing domestic economic growth and a weakening yuan currency.

Chinese firms went on a multi-billion-dollar shopping spree last year, culminating in state-owned ChemChina's pending $43 billion bid for Swiss seed giant Syngenta. Overseas direct investment surged 44 percent to 1.13 trillion yuan (now $165 billion) in 2016, according to government data.

Property-to-entertainment conglomerate Wanda Group bought Hollywood studio Legendary for $3.5 billion, appliance giant Midea took over leading German robotics firm Kuka for $5 billion, and insurer-turned-hotelier Anbang paid $6.5 billion for 16 luxury properties from hedge fund Blackstone, among other deals.

 The tightening marked an about-face after authorities had long urged private and state-owned enterprises to "go abroad" to buy foreign brands and resources in search of better returns and technological know-how.