China economy grows 2.3% in 2020 as rebound from coronavirus gains


China has re-imposed travel controls in some areas after a spate of COVID-19 cases in January but most of the country is unaffected.

Associated Press

January 18, 2021 / 08:38 AM IST

China's President Xi Jinping (File image)

China’s President Xi Jinping (File image)

China’s economy grew 2.3 percent in 2020 as a recovery from the coronavirus pandemic accelerated while the United States, Europe and Japan struggled with disease flare-ups.

Growth in the three months ending in December 2020 rose to 6.5 percent over a year earlier, up from the previous quarters 4.9 percent, official data showed on January 18.

In early 2020, activity contracted by 6.8 percent in the first quarter as the ruling Communist Party took the then-unprecedented step of shutting down its economy to fight the virus. The following quarter, China became the first major country to grow again with a 3.2 percent expansion after the party declared victory over the virus in March and allowed factories, shops and offices to reopen.

The economy recovered steadily and living standards were ensured forcefully, the National Bureau of Statistics said in a statement. It said the ruling party’s development goals were accomplished better than expectation but gave no details.

2020 was Chinas weakest growth in decades and below the previous recent low of 3.9 percent in 1990 following the crackdown on a pro-democracy movement. But it was well ahead of the United States and other major economies. They have yet to report 2020 growth but all are on track to show full-year activity contracting before vaccines are rolled out and commerce returns to normal.

China has re-imposed travel controls in some areas after a spate of COVID-19 cases in January but most of the country is unaffected.

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Growth was aided by global demand for Chinese-made masks and other medical supplies. Exports rose 3.6 percent last year despite a tariff war with Washington. Exporters took market share from foreign competitors that still faced anti-virus restrictions.

The International Monetary Fund and private sector forecasters expect economic growth to rise further this year to above 8%.

Retail spending contracted by 3.9 percent over 2019 but gained 4.6 percent in December over a year earlier as demand revived. Consumer spending recovered to above the previous years levels in the quarter ending in September.

Online sales of consumer goods rose 14.8 percent as millions of families who were ordered to stay home shifted to buying groceries and clothing online.

Factory output rose 2.8 percent over 2019. Earlier data showed activity accelerating toward the end of the year. Production rose 7.3 percent in December.

Follow our full coverage on COVID-19 here.

Associated Press