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.