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China's economy is growing faster now than before pandemic


TAIPEI, Taiwan - A year ago, the coronavirus began spreading rapidly in China. Today, China's economy is bouncing back hard, and expanding faster than it did before the pandemic.

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Economic data published Monday showed that China logged 2.3% growth for 2020, becoming the only major economy that grew during a year that exacted a generational toll on swaths of the world. As other major nations and geopolitical competitors, from the United States to Europe to India to Japan, struggle to beat back a winter wave, China's containment success has buoyed its economy and the ruling Communist Party's claims to global leadership in the post-pandemic world.

In a sign of how quickly China has managed a turnaround, the National Statistics Bureau said gross domestic product rose 6.5% during the fourth quarter of 2020, exceeding the 6% pace at the end of 2019, before the pandemic took hold.

As President-elect Joe Biden enters office this week, he'll be confronted with a China that does not seem at all diminished in economic health or international stature. Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, struck a bullish tone during his New Year's Eve address, when he told his countrymen that he was "proud of his great motherland" and the sacrifice and unity its people displayed to quickly beat back the coronavirus through lockdown measures and a mobilization of medical and manufacturing workers.

In recent weeks, Chinese state media and the nation's globe-trotting foreign minister, Wang Yi, have told world leaders from Myanmar to the European Union, as well as global investors, that China's fast recovery could lift the rest of the world. Under Xi's leadership and through his diplomacy through online video calls, Wang claimed this month, China "has brought hope for the world economy to step out of the doldrums."

"China's economy continues to power ahead with remarkable momentum, leaving other major economies, most of which are still struggling to register some semblance of growth, in the dust," said Eswar Prasad, a professor at Cornell University and former China director for the International Monetary Fund. "With its outstanding growth performance, China has cemented its position as the primary driver of what has so far been a dismal global economic recovery."

Last week, Chinese officials said exports reached a new all-time high of $2.6 trillion in 2020. Despite a bitter trade war with President Donald Trump, China's surplus with the United States reached a record of $316.9 billion for the year.

Employment was also picking up as the economy created 11.86 million jobs during the year, the statistics bureau said.

China's economy dipped into negative territory once, during the first quarter of 2020, when authorities locked down Hubei Province and its capital, Wuhan, and enforced softer lockdown measures in cities across the country.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences predicted this month that China could grow 7.8% in 2021 as it fully bounces back, a whopping rate reminiscent of China's explosive growth in past decades. But it's not guaranteed that China can continue its late-2020 surge if coronavirus cases take hold again.

The Chinese government is trying to prevent a resurgence; it reinforced a lockdown over about 20 million residents in northern China, including several large cities near Beijing, after several small outbreaks.

Although the measures will help prevent new cases from spiraling out of control, they may crimp economic activity in industries such as travel in the short term.

Chinese officials have canceled public events, large gatherings such as weddings, and unfurled street signs and publicity campaigns urging workers not to travel home during the Lunar New Year period, when hundreds of millions of citizens usually crisscross the country to visit family members.

In northern Hebei Province, which surrounds Beijing, authorities have reported almost 700 cases since the beginning of January, the biggest flare-up since the spring.

Published : January 18, 2021

By : The Washington Post · Gerry Shih · BUSINESS, WORLD, US-GLOBAL-MARKETS, ASIA-PACIFIC