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Chinese economy avoids global Covid-19 crisis as buyers join recovery



The world’s second-largest economy has been in recovery mode for months. Now consumers are starting to spend more, pushing retail sales to 3.36 trillion yuan ($ 495 billion) in August, an increase of 0.5% from the previous year. Although small, this gain marks the first increase in sales in 2020.

Chinese officials praised the hike at a monthly press conference on Tuesday, and said the country also sees economic improvement elsewhere.

“The labor market has stabilized and travel restrictions have relaxed,” said Fu Linghui, spokesperson for the National Bureau of Statistics. “People are more willing to go out and spend.”

China’s recovery makes it an outlier as the pandemic is hanging over the rest of the world.

The world’s major economies, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, shrank significantly in the first half of 2020. China was the only country for which the International Monetary Fund forecast growth this year in its June forecast expected to increase by 1%.

Careful recovery

China’s economy has rebounded since its $ 14 trillion economy shrank 6.8% in the first quarter, the worst drop in three months since China began releasing quarterly figures in 1992.

The country managed to stave off a recession and grew 3.2% in the second quarter, with other major economies experiencing massive contractions. But these data showed signs of weakness especially in retail, suggesting that Beijing was still struggling to convince people to leave their homes and splurge.
This now seems to be changing. Fu pointed out that the Chinese box office has been recovering since the authorities allowed cinemas to reopen in mid-July, with August ticket sales down just over half of what they were a year earlier. Cinemas had been closed for several months before the pandemic.
Car sales, meanwhile, rose nearly 12% in August from a year ago, a sign that the government’s efforts to encourage the purchase of cars in distribute money can work. Sales of residential properties were also boosted.

“Spending remains highest among the wealthiest consumers, as evidenced by the continued rapid growth in car and property sales,” Capital Economics wrote in a research note Tuesday, although they noted that the data suggests that the recovery is “widening”.

Signs of growth

Data on Tuesday revealed further positive signs. Industrial production and capital spending resumed in August, while the unemployment rate edged down 5.6% in August from 5.7% in July.

“This growth has brought some jobs back to the market,” Iris Pang, Greater China chief economist, said in a research note.

“It is indeed the circulation of internal growth that China promotes,” she added, referring to Beijing’s recent focus on stimulating domestic demand and trying to reduce its dependence on foreign trade, to capital and technology as tensions mount with the West.

However, the country still faces challenges. The unemployment rate is still higher than historical levels, and Beijing data does not include residents of rural communities or many of the hundreds of millions of migrant workers.

Even Fu, the government spokesman, said on Tuesday that the country still faces “great pressure from unemployment” as record numbers of new university graduates enter the workforce. He said many of those people were struggling to find jobs because of the pandemic.

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