China’s economy picked up speed in the fourth quarter of 2020 to end the year with a growth rate of 2.3 percent.
The growth could make China the only major economic power to expand following worldwide business shutdowns caused by the coronavirus crisis.
Growth in the three months ending in December rose to 6.5 percent over a year earlier, official data released this week showed. The growth was driven in large part by the Chinese public returning to stores, restaurants and movie theaters.
In the first quarter, economy activity fell 6.8 percent, as the ruling Communist Party decided to shut down most of its economy to fight the coronavirus. In the second quarter, China became the first major economy to expand. It reported 3.2 percent growth during that period. That rate came after officials declared victory over the virus in March and permitted factories, stores and offices to reopen.
Today, restaurants are filling up with people again. So are movie theaters and some major stores. Crowds are still thin at large shopping malls, however, where guards take the temperature of visitors to identify possible coronavirus cases.
Tourism within China has also started to come back. However, some Chinese cities are reporting a rise in new infections. Because of this, China’s government has urged the public to stay home during the Lunar New Year holiday in February. The Lunar New Year holiday is normally the busiest part of China’s travel season.
China moved quickly to put public restrictions in place across the country when the virus first appeared. Experts say the action permitted China to largely contain the virus much more quickly than most countries.
Another driver of the country’s latest economic growth was a boost in exports linked to the demand for Chinese-made face masks and other medical goods during the pandemic.
Rajiv Biswas is with the market research company IHS Markit. He said in a report that China’s 2020 growth showed clear gains in consumer activity and strong export performance. Biswas added that China is likely to be the only major economy to have growth in 2020. Developed nations and most major developing markets experienced a recession.
China’s National Bureau of Statistics said in a statement that the economy had “recovered steadily.” It added that the ruling party’s development goals had progressed “better than expectations.”
Even with the fourth quarter rise, China’s overall 2.3 percent rate marked the country’s weakest economic expansion in many years. It was well below 1990′s 3.9 percent growth rate following the crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement the year before. That event left China internationally isolated.
Iris Pang is an economist in China with financial services company ING. She wrote in a report that it is too early to tell whether the Chinese growth results represent “a full recovery.” She said experts are watching “external demand” for exports, which has not yet fully recovered.
Exporters and technology manufacturers are not sure how incoming U.S. President Joe Biden will deal with conflicts with China over trade, technology and security. The Trump administration hurt exporters by raising tariffs on Chinese goods and manufacturers.
Pang said economic experts at her company expect the newly elected U.S. government to “continue most of the current policies on China, at least for the first quarter.”
The International Monetary Fund and private industry experts have predicted China’s economic growth will rise more in 2021, to above 8 percent.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section, and visit our Facebook page.
Words in This Story
mall – n. a large, covered shopping area
tourism – n. activities related to travel to a place for pleasure
mask – n. a face covering
consumer – n. someone who buys or uses goods or services
steady – adj. happening at a gradual, regular rate
crackdown – n. a serious attempt to punish people for doing something that is not permitted
isolate – v. to put or keep (someone or something) in a place or situation that is separate from others
tariff – n. a tax on goods coming into or leaving a country