The Chinese economy saw record growth of 18.3% in the first quarter of this year compared to 2020, the country that has made the world sick with Covid is rebounding fastest from the pandemic.
The figure was slightly lower than expected, some of which predicted growth above 20%, but still represents the largest increase in GDP since Beijing began keeping records in 1992.
This means that China’s economic recovery continues to accelerate after becoming virtually the only major economy to grow in 2020, as other world leaders have been crippled by the effects of repeated lockdowns.
China’s economy grew a record 18.3 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to the first quarter of 2020, new figures from Beijing showed this morning.
China was the only major global economy to record growth in 2020, with others crippled by the effects of Covid lockdowns
Analysts warn that the growth reported today is not as impressive as it first appears, benefiting from a comparison with the same quarter last year, when the country was at its peak. own blockages – a so-called “low base” effect.
The numbers have also been inflated by a high amount of government spending, but will still be the envy of most other world leaders struggling to put their countries back in the dark.
German economists yesterday warned their economy – Europe’s largest – likely shrank 1.8% in the first quarter of this year as part of a partial lockdown.
The UK economy is also set to contract by around 2%, analysts say, while Japan and India are unlikely to experience growth until the end of the year.
The US economy is one of the few to see growth in the first quarter, with estimates of around 8%, which is still half of China’s growth rate.
Detailed data released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics on Friday showed retail sales surged in March, pushing first-quarter growth to 33.9% as life largely returned to normal.
Industrial production grew less than expected by 24.5 percent in the quarter.
The figures come days after authorities announced that exports – and particularly imports – had exploded in March.
Highlighting the contrast between China’s growth and the rest of the global economy, spokeswoman Liu Aihua warned that the international landscape still contained “great uncertainties.”
As vaccines are rolled out around the world, the distribution is uneven and a resumption of infections is forcing governments to reimpose containment measures, slowing the recovery.
The urban unemployment rate, a figure analysts have been watching closely, edged down to 5.3%.
China resumed growth even as rest of global economy remains in tatters due to lockdowns to prevent the spread of Covid (file)
But economists expect the engines of growth to change in the coming months and have warned of an “uneven” recovery so far.
“Industrial production took the lead in the recovery last year, and it looks a bit tired now,” UOB economist Ho Woei Chen said.
“With the outperformance of retail sales and the recovery of the labor market, private consumption is expected to accelerate,” she told AFP, adding that this should take the lead again. growth later in the year.
But Oxford Economics Asian chief Louis Kuijs warned that “a full rebound in household spending depends on a convincing vaccination and further improvements in labor market conditions.”
Beijing has worked to reposition its economy from a coal-fired manufacturing base to one fueled by high-tech green energy and home consumption.
But the country’s strong post-pandemic recovery has been fueled by coal, with a slew of new plans approved, and environmentalists fear this could hamper a shift to greener policies.
A report by analyst firm TransitionZero said on Thursday that China must “cancel all new coal immediately and indefinitely” and convert almost all of its coal fleet by 2040 in order to meet the zero-emission target .
The economic data comes as US climate envoy John Kerry is in Shanghai for talks, and ahead of a virtual Franco-German climate summit on Friday in which President Xi Jinping is expected to attend.
China was the first country in the world to mount a large-scale response to Covid after the disease emerged in Wuhan in late 2019, putting in place strict lockdown measures and closing borders.
While China has managed to reduce its own Covid cases to near zero and reopen its economy, the rest of the world is still seeing increasing cases (pictured, hospital in India)
While much doubt has been placed on the Chinese data, especially at the start of the pandemic, these measures are widely believed to have reduced the number of cases to near zero by now.
As a result, China has been able to reopen its economy faster than other countries around the world – many of which are still crippled by repeated lockdowns as cases increase.
Demand for Chinese products, especially PPE and mass-produced vaccines, has also helped jumpstart its economic recovery.
As a result, China posted economic growth of 2.3 for the full year of 2020, making it the only major global economy to experience total growth that year.
Covid is widely believed to have originated in the city of Wuhan, Hubei province, sometime around or shortly before December 2019 – although a WHO investigation into its origins has failed to uncover precisely how it was. first spread to humans.
Scientists believe that the original host animal, possibly a bat, transmitted the virus to a second animal that comes into contact with people more frequently, this is where the “spillover event” took place. place.
This event may have taken place at the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, the researchers said, where a cluster of early cases took place – although some have no connection to the market, meaning that ‘a link cannot be conclusively proven.
Researchers dismissed a theory that the virus had leaked from a coronavirus research lab in Wuhan that conducted controversial disease research, saying it was “highly unlikely.”
But their findings proved controversial, with critics saying they relied too heavily on data provided by Beijing.
Even WHO director Tedros Ghebreyesus has called for further study of the laboratory leak theory, saying it is too early to conclusively rule it out.