China has reported that the country’s economy grew 18.3% year on year, in the first quarter of 2021. This, according to officials, is the best quarterly growth since 1992, when China started publishing such figures.
The figures were magnified by comparison with early 2020, when the world’s second-largest economy suffered its deepest recession in decades. On a quarterly basis, the Chinese economy grew only 0.6% in the January-to-March period last year.
Manufacturing and consumer activities have returned to normal since the country allowed factories and stores to reopen in March 2020. Restaurants and shopping malls are also reportedly filling up, though visitors’ still have their temperatures checked.
The economy “delivered a stable performance with a consolidated foundation;and good momentum of growth,” the National Bureau of Statistics noted in a report.
Experts say the jump in growth is in line with expectations due to the low basis for comparison in early 2020. Last year, the economy shrank by 6.8% in the first quarter, China’s worst performance since the mid-1960s.
Activity started to recover in the second quarter of 2020, when the economy expanded by 3.2% year on year. That accelerated to 4.9% in the third quarter and 6.5% in the final three months of the year.
For the full year, China recorded a 2.3% growth, becoming the only major economy to expand while United States, Europe and Japan struggled amid the pandemic.
In a report, Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital economics noted that the latest headline figures “mask a sharp slowdown” as government stimulus is withdrawn.
“China’s post-COVID rebound is leveling off.”
- China records 2.3 percent economic growth in 2020
- China’s economy rebounds strongly in first two months, industrial output up 35.1%
Factory output and investment slowing
The data released by the Chinese government also indicates that consumer spending is accelerating while growth in factory output and investment are slowing.
First quarter retail spending rose 33.9% over a year earlier, while growth in March rose to 34.2%, according to the NBS. It added that factory output rose 24.5% while investment in real estate, factories and other fixed assets rose 25.6%.
Chaoping Zhu of JP Morgan Asset Management, noted in a report that slowing manufacturing growth “implies a normalizing growth path in the months ahead”.
“The focus should be on consumption data, which kept improving in March in comparison with the previous month.”
The NBS also revealed that spending on restaurants jumped 75.8% year on year whiles online retail sales rose 29.9%.
March exports rose 30.6% over a year earlier, as global consumer demand revived. Exports to the United States also jumped 53.6%, despite tariff hikes still in place on Chinese goods in a trade war launched by former President Donald Trump.
The International Monetary Fund and private sector forecasters expect economic growth to rise further this year to above 8%. The ruling party has also indicated that it’s official growth target for the year is “above 6%.”
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