Maintaining sustainable and healthy economic growth this year is a key objective, and China’s economy remains resilient despite mounting risks and challenges at home and abroad, a senior official said on Friday.
The statement came as the country mobilizes a concerted effort to fight the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak and to shore up its economy amid the epidemic.
The sharp rise of confirmed infections worldwide in the past few days has fueled growing fears about the epidemic’s impact on the global economy as financial markets in Asia continued to see heavy selling on Friday.
Economists expect that China’s first-quarter growth is likely to suffer a sharp contraction due to the economic standstill caused by the epidemic. But the incident is unlikely to change the overall trend of the country’s economy growing with better quality as well as its role as the main engine of global growth, they said.
Sheng Laiyun, deputy head of the National Bureau of Statistics, said that the country needs to step up efforts to stabilize its economy and maintain sustainable and healthy growth while facing the negative impact from the epidemic on production and people’s lives. He made the comments in a statement published on the bureau’s website as it released its annual statistical report on Friday.
China continued to be the main driver of global growth last year, contributing to about 30 percent of global growth, according to the report. The country’s GDP grew 6.1 percent to 99.1 trillion yuan ($14.2 trillion) last year with GDP per capita exceeding $10,000 for the first time in history.
Sheng said the growth record reflected the steady trend of China’s high-quality development and the immense resilience, potential and dynamism of its economy. He added that 2020 is a crucial year for China as the country has set the goal of building a moderately prosperous society and doubling its 2010 GDP and per capita income by this year according to its 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20).
The epidemic has brought a sudden disruption to the Chinese economy as business activities have almost come to a standstill following the contingent measures taken by authorities to contain the spread of the disease.
While the government has been actively facilitating the gradual resumption of production in less-affected areas, economists said that the country’s first-quarter growth may suffer heavily and March could be a critical period to see if the economy is on track for a solid recovery.
“So far, the production resumption pace has been relatively slow and the first-quarter growth is likely to be affected substantially. The key turning point is likely to emerge in March,” said Zhang Yansheng, a senior researcher at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges.
Zhang said that if economic activities resume to normal levels in the second quarter, the country could still manage to achieve an annual growth rate of about 5.6 percent.
Global financial markets and policymakers have been grappling with the rapid spread of the contagion around the world. Economists worry that this could trigger stricter government measures and lead to more risk-averse behavior of households in other countries, increasing potential risks to global growth, including the Chinese economy.
Economists with United States bank Goldman Sachs have cut China’s first-quarter real GDP growth rate forecast to 2.5 percent. Despite the challenging outlook for the first quarter, they anticipate a sharp rebound in the second and third quarter and they still expect the country’s overall GDP growth at around 5.5 percent for the year.
“We assume the apparent progress in control of the domestic outbreak continues, allowing economic activity to normalize fairly quickly in Q2. We also assume China’s macro policy settings ease materially further to push activity levels above trend in the second half of the year,” they said in a research note.