Chinese economic growth hits three-decade low

Published: January 17, 2020
Economy grows 6.1%, hit by weak domestic demand and trade tensions. PHOTO: REUTERS

Economy grows 6.1%, hit by weak domestic demand and trade tensions. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING: China’s economy grew last year at its slowest pace in three decades, hit by weak domestic demand and trade tensions, but while officials warned of further headwinds, separate figures on Friday suggest the downward trend is bottoming out.

The 6.1% rate is a sharp drop from the 6.6% the year before and marks the third straight drop, though it met the government’s target and analysts said leaders were unlikely to open up the stimulus taps just yet.

The reading was also in line with AFP analyst forecasts.

And while the world’s number two economy had been gradually losing steam over the first three quarters, growth held steady at 6% in October-December — the same as the previous quarter, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Ning Jizhe, commissioner of the NBS, said momentum remained generally stable through the year and said the same could be expected in 2020.

“However, we should also be aware that the global economic and trade growth is slowing down,” he said at a news conference, adding that there were more sources of instability and risk, with the economy facing “mounting downward pressure”.

The figures were released days after Vice Premier Liu He and Donald Trump signed a much-vaunted “phase one” pact that marks a truce in their nearly two-year-old trade war.

The agreement will see the US slash import duties on Chinese goods worth billions of dollars, though levies remain in place on two-thirds of more than $500 billion of products.

The World Bank said in a report this month that weakening exports from China had compounded the impact of a slowdown in domestic demand. Policy uncertainty and higher tariffs on exports to the US also cast a pall on manufacturing activity and investor sentiment, it added.

Other data released Friday showed while industrial production and retail sales slowed over the year, both indicators outperformed in December, with the NBS pointing to a particularly strong showing in consumer spending.

“The latest … data provides a very positive start to the Chinese New Year for China’s economy,” Rajiv Biswas, of IHS Markit, said. “The outlook for 2020 is for continued robust growth, boosted by the phase one trade deal with the US and the continued positive impact of government monetary and fiscal policy stimulus measures.”

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