HONG KONG—China’s aggressive campaign to root out speculative real-estate activity could slow the country’s growth rate for years to come, economists say, even if the worst-case scenario—a major housing correction with sharply falling home prices—is averted.

China is attempting a controlled slowdown of the country’s property market—whose decadeslong boom has led to runaway price increases and a glut of empty apartments—in an effort to reduce financial risks and put the economy on sounder footing.

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