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A closer look at China’s economic steadiness, vitality and potential

A new energy vehicle of China's car brand Hongqi is displayed at the fourth China International Consumer Products Expo (CICPE) in Haikou, capital city of south China's Hainan Province, April 13, 2024. (Xinhua/Yang Guanyu)

*China’s economic recovery has gathered steam in the first quarter of 2024, displaying strength and resilience and bringing much-needed certainty to an otherwise uncertain global economic landscape.

*The Chinese economy is shifting from rapid growth to high-quality development, and has great potential to sustain its stable development, analysts said.

*Officials said with further implementation of a series of major reform policies and initiatives, there is a solid foundation for a stable and improving Chinese economy throughout the year of 2024.

BEIJING, April 25 (Xinhua) — The Chinese economy has seen its recovery gather steam in the first quarter (Q1) of 2024, displaying strength and resilience and bringing much-needed certainty to an otherwise uncertain global economic landscape.

In the first three months of the year, China’s GDP expanded 5.3 percent from one year earlier, accelerating from 5.2 percent in the previous quarter, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed.

Acknowledging the performance as a « good start, » guest speakers at the fourth episode of the China Economic Roundtable, an all-media talk platform hosted by Xinhua News Agency, said the country had navigated economic headwinds with an effective policy mix and put the economy on a solid footing for stable and sound development in 2024 and beyond.

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A drone photo taken on March 8, 2024 shows tourists enjoying the view of rapeseed flowers in Dunhou community of Pujiang County, Chengdu, southwest China’s Sichuan Province. (Xinhua/Jiang Hongjing)

SMOOTH TAKE-OFF

The country’s economic and social development in Q1 achieved a « stable start, a smooth take-off, and a positive beginning, » said Li Hui, an official with the National Development and Reform Commission.

The Q1 GDP growth was compared with a 5.2-percent overall growth registered in 2023 and above the annual growth target of around 5 percent set for this year.

On a quarterly basis, the economy expanded 1.6 percent in the first three months of the year, growing for seven consecutive quarters, according to the NBS.

A series of other indicators, including the purchasing managers’ index (PMI), foreign trade, and fixed-asset investment, all pointed to a recovery gaining momentum in the world’s second-largest economy.

The PMI, a critical gauge of manufacturing and services sector health, also reported improvements in March, with PMI for the manufacturing sector moving back above the mark of 50 separating expansion from contraction for the first time since September.

Historically, for the first time, its Q1 foreign trade scale has exceeded 10 trillion yuan (about 1.4 trillion U.S. dollars) during the same period, expanding 5 percent from a year ago, with the growth being a six-quarter high.

Fixed-asset investment also expanded at a faster pace in Q1, with high-tech sectors recording strong investment growth, indicating accelerated industrial upgrading.

An ice-snow leisure travel boom at the beginning of the year, the spring blossom tours, surging film box office and visitor boom at the country’s museums all indicated the recovery in consumption is picking up pace.

China’s economic expansion is also manifesting itself globally. The country remained a main driving force for the world economy, accounting for 32 percent of total growth last year, according to the International Finance Forum.

« China’s economic growth has maintained a leading position among the world’s major economies, and remained an important growth engine and stabilizer for the global economy. The country’s stable development injects stability to a world of uncertainties, » said NBS spokesperson Wang Guanhua.

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A new energy vehicle of China’s car brand Hongqi is displayed at the fourth China International Consumer Products Expo (CICPE) in Haikou, capital city of south China’s Hainan Province, April 13, 2024. (Xinhua/Yang Guanyu)

QUALITATIVE GROWTH

A breakdown of the Q1 data showed the growth is not only quantitative, but also qualitative. Steady progress has been made as the country remains committed to high-quality and innovation-driven development.

The country is gradually transforming from a pattern of traditional manufacturing to high-value-added, high-tech sectors, with the digital economy and green and low-carbon industries developing vigorously.

Its high-tech manufacturing sector registered a growth of 7.5 percent in Q1 output, accelerating by 2.6 percentage points from the previous quarter.

Investment into aviation, spacecraft and equipment manufacturing surged 42.7 percent in the January-March period, while the production of service robots and new energy vehicles saw substantial increases of 26.7 percent and 29.2 percent, respectively.

Structurally, the country’s export portfolio demonstrated strength in the machinery and electronics sector, as well as labor-intensive products, signaling the continued international competitiveness of these goods. Imports of bulk commodities and consumer goods have expanded steadily, indicating a healthy and growing domestic demand.

It has also made progress in making its growth more balanced and sustainable, with domestic demand contributing 85.5 percent of economic growth in Q1.

The country’s economy is shifting from rapid growth to high-quality development, and has great potential to sustain its stable development, analysts said.

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A drone photo shows a cargo ship docking at Qingdao Port in east China’s Shandong Province, March 13, 2024. (Xinhua/Li Ziheng)

POLICY MIX

To boost economic recovery, which China’s policymakers said would be a wave-like development with twists and turns and now remains uneven, the country has leveraged a variety of policies to offset downward pressures and address structural challenges.

The country vowed to continue to implement a proactive fiscal policy and a prudent monetary policy this year, and announced an array of pro-growth measures, including the issuing of ultra-long special treasury bonds, with an initial allocation of 1 trillion yuan for 2024.

To boost investment and consumption, the country doubled down on efforts to promote a new round of large-scale equipment renewals and trade-ins of consumer goods.

The scale of equipment investment in sectors including industry, agriculture, construction, transportation, education, culture, tourism and medical care, is targeted to increase by more than 25 percent by 2027 compared with 2023.

To promote high-level opening up and optimize the business environment, the country proposed 24 measures to encourage foreign investment. It vowed to further shorten its negative list for foreign investment and launch pilot programs to relax foreign entry thresholds in scientific and technological innovation.

Other policy incentives to support various areas ranging from the silver economy, consumer finance, employment, green and low-carbon development to sci-tech innovation and small businesses have also been unveiled.

Zhang Yansheng, chief researcher at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, said to achieve the annual growth target this year, China needs to further address challenges such as insufficient domestic demand and real estate market adjustment while promoting high-quality development and new quality productive forces.

« China does not need stimulus measures merely for higher growth rates. Instead, it needs policy packages aimed at high-quality development and problem-solving, » Zhang said.

« With the further implementation of a series of major reform policies and initiatives, we will continue to make efforts in strengthening the real economy, promoting consumption, expanding investment and stabilizing foreign trade, » said Li Hui, adding that there is a solid foundation for a stable and improving Chinese economy throughout the year of 2024.

(Video reporters: Dong Xiuzhu, Yao Bing, Yang Yiran, Yu Fuqing, Hua Hongli, Nurdin Pallangyo, Xie E, Liu Yanan, Deng Min, Zeng Tao, Ruth, Zhao Xiaona, Zheng Bofei; Video editors: Zheng Xin, Wei Yin.) ■

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