China economy grows 4.8% in first quarter as coronavirus bites

Monday’s figures were above analyst expectations


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Reuters file
Reuters file

Published: Mon 18 Apr 2022, 7:28 AM

China’s economy grew 4.8 per cent in the first quarter, the National Bureau of Statistics said Monday, warning of “significant challenges” ahead as a resurgence of the coronavirus threatens Beijing’s ambitious annual target.

The world’s second-biggest economy was already losing steam in the latter half of last year with a property slump and regulatory crackdowns.

But Beijing’s unrelenting zero-Covid approach to multiple virus outbreaks this year has clogged supply chains and locked down tens of millions of people — including in the economic dynamos of Shanghai and Shenzhen.

China’s gross domestic product growth was better than expected at 4.8 percent on-year in the first quarter, said the NBS on Monday, up from 4.0 percent in the final months of 2021.

But the data did not take in the gnawing impact of a weeks-long lockdown in Shanghai.

Monday’s figures were above analyst expectations.

But virus restrictions hitting key cities in March gouged at retail sales, driving up the unemployment rate.

All of this adds to pressure on officials to meet the country’s full-year growth target of around 5.5 percent, in a key year for President Xi Jinping who is eyeing another term in power.

“We must be aware that with the domestic and international environment becoming increasingly complicated and uncertain, economic development is facing significant difficulties and challenges,” said NBS spokesman Fu Linghui on Monday.

While China saw an uptick in manufacturing growth earlier this year and spending was aided by the Lunar New Year holiday, curbs on movement came into place in March, disrupting businesses and keeping consumers at home.


Industrial production growth eased to 5.0 percent in March, NBS data showed, down from the January-February period.

Meanwhile, retail sales sank 3.5 percent and the urban unemployment rate ticked up to 5.8 percent in March.

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