Chinese economy off to a promising recovery

By IMRAN KHALID | Gwadar Pro Apr 21, 2023

Editor's Note: The writer is a freelance columnist on international affairs based in Karachi, Pakistan. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of Gwadar Pro.


The Chinese economy is off to a promising start this year, clocking in a 4.5 percent year-on-year growth rate in the first quarter - a figure that has surpassed the projections of many.

The ripple effects of China's strong economic performance provide a much-needed impetus for the wider global economic recovery.

On April 18, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) of China shared data revealing that China's GDP for the first quarter of this year has reached a whopping 28.5 trillion yuan ($4.15 trillion), indicating a significant uptick of 2.2 percent compared to the last quarter in 2022.

The statistics highlight China's economic prowess and its ability to stay resilient despite the ongoing global turbulence. The most recent economic data for Q1 has highlighted impressive growth in various sectors. 

This economic growth pattern echoes what the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted. On February 3, the IMF published a report by Diego A. Cerdeiro and Sonali Jain-Chandra, which forecasts very optimistic figures of the Chinese economy in 2023.

They predicted, ”China’s economy is set to rebound this year as mobility and activity pick up after the lifting of pandemic restrictions, providing a boost to the global economy. The economy will expand 5.2 percent this year, according to our latest projections, versus 3 percent last year. That’s good news for China and the world as the Chinese economy is now expected to contribute a third of global growth this year.” The first quarter data has corroborated this forecast.

Indeed, the data shows a month-on-month trend of growth, as businesses adapt and consumers gradually regain their confidence. One particularly notable positive factor is seen in the retail sector, which has far exceeded the expectations in the month of March and clearly indicated that the consumer confidence, which had been shaken by the uncertainties of the past year, is gradually being restored.

Retail sales, the "barometer for consumption," witnessed a remarkable 10.6 percent growth in March, surpassing earlier expectations of 7.4 percent growth. This figure also outpaced the growth rate observed in January and February, indicating a general upswing. In the first quarter, retail sales rose by 5.8 percent compared to the same period last year. This marks a significant reversal of the downward trend seen in the final quarter of 2022.

Furthermore, the real estate sector displayed several positive signals of stabilization and rebound, indicating an overall positive trend. The macroeconomic figures from the first quarter of this year suggest that China's economy is undergoing a significant optimization.

In addition to 5.1 per cent year-on-year growth in the fixed-asset investment a 7 percent year-on-year increase in investment in the manufacturing sector was witnessed, indicating a robust expansion.

The high-tech industries attracted 16 percent more investment over the same period, while investment in e-commerce services surged by a remarkable 51.5 percent. These numbers suggest that China's economic transformation is accelerating, with a shift towards a more digital and high-tech economy.

In the face of a global economic landscape marked by uncertainty and challenges, China has once again demonstrated its remarkable resilience and adaptability. Against the backdrop of skyrocketing inflation across the globe due to the pandemic and year-long Russia-Ukraine conflict, the country's exports increased by an impressive 23.4 percent year-on-year in yuan-denominated terms in March. This far exceeds market expectations, and is a testament to China's robust rebound after the lifting of COVID-related restrictions last December.

Across a range of key indicators, production and demand appears to have stabilized and rebounded, while the employment rate and consumer prices have remained generally stable. Personal income has continued its upward trend, and market expectations have improved significantly. These trends are indicative of a broader development pattern in the Chinese economy, which is generating a sense of optimism among market observers.

As late as December 2022, most of the Western economists were quite apprehensive about the performance of the Chinese economy in 2023 and they were hyping the deflation narrative. The strong momentum currently exhibited by the Chinese economy effectively dispels such notions.

The Chinese government skillfully harnessed the economy's inherent fortitude and internal momentum by enacting tailored initiatives to enhance economic growth and cultivate a more favorable environment for businesses.

Despite the United States' protracted trade war with China, the enduring impact of COVID-19 pandemic that has been lasting for over three years, and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict for over a year, China has not lost its firm grip on the reins of its economic development.

While the global landscape remains intricate and unpredictable, the groundwork for a resilient economic recovery has been firmly established. The impressive first quarter performance indicates that the Chinese economy is poised to achieve remarkable growth in the remainder of 2023, while the major economies – as well as the global economy as whole - are struggling with stagnation and corrosion. 

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