SCIO briefing on China's economic performance in first quarter of 2021

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Hong Kong Bauhinia Magazine:

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently raised its economic growth projection for China in 2021, predicting that its economy will grow by 8.4%. What is the NBS' expectation for China's economic outlook of this year? Thank you.  

Liu Aihua:

Thank you for your question. The IMF upgraded its growth projection for China in 2021, lifting its economic growth to 8.4%, which shows the confidence and expectation of the international community for China's economic development throughout the year. As far as we are concerned, the economy is expected to maintain a consolidated and positive momentum for steady growth, which can be seen in the following three aspects:

First, internal driving forces have been strengthening. Consumption has been improving steadily due to increased personal incomes, improvement in the consumption environment, and implementation of policies. In March, the total sales of social consumer goods increased by 34.2% year on year, 0.4 percentage point higher than that of January and February. The hotel and catering industries, which were affected earlier, have been gradually recovering. March revenue in the catering industry was, for the first time, higher than the level of the same period in 2019, returning to pre-pandemic levels. Moreover, the composition of investment witnessed a continuous improvement in the first quarter, with the average investment in the high-tech industry and the social domain in the past two years up 9.9% and 9.6% respectively. Growth rates in both were close to 10%, higher than the overall investment growth. Such growth was actually not insignificant. Going forward with facilitating factors such as policies, programs, and funding are gradually put in place or implemented, investment is expected to maintain a steady recovery. Additionally, the growth of imports also accelerated in March, jumping 27.7% year on year, a figure that is higher than the growth of exports for the first time this year. This reflects a strong and consolidated recovery of domestic demand. 

Second, supply quality has been improving. Industrial restructuring has been on the rise. According to recently released data, both production and investment in the high-tech industry witnessed a faster growth than average. Additionally, the capacity utilization rate has been increasing, with the national industrial capacity utilization rate reaching 77.2% in the first quarter, up 9.9 percentage points year on year and the highest level in the same period since 2013. The service industry has also seen a steady recovery. The ratio of the added value in the service sector in GDP hit 58.3% in the first quarter, 21.1 percentage points higher than that of the secondary industry. The contribution rate in the service sector in terms of economic growth reached 50.9% and it continued to play its role as the major driving force for growth. Cutting edge services, including information transmission, software and information technology services, grew by 17.1% in the past two years.

Third, market vitality has been unleashed. Macro-policies have been put in place and continue to provide market entities with relief and necessary support. We have improved and implemented tax reduction policies in a bid to help market entities recover and energize them. The number of market entities has seen a rapid increase, with double-digit growth in market entities estblished daily. Enterprise projection has witnessed a good momentum of steady growth. In March, the manufacturing production and business activities expectation index and the non-manufacturing business activities expectation index were both around 60%, maintaining relatively high levels.

The above three aspects, whether in terms of the internal driving forces of the economy, the quality of supply, or market entities that we're concerned about, have all been improving and enhancing. The recovery in these aspects, together with a solid material foundation, complete industrial system, and abundant human resources, all of which are advantages that China has maintained for a long period, will synergize demand and supply, and provide micro-entities with relief. Overall, we are confident that our economic recovery will maintain the current momentum throughout the year, and I think we have the foundation and conditions to achieve a consolidated and positive momentum for steady growth.

Due to the pandemic, as we mentioned earlier, the economic environment is still facing uncertainties and instabilities. We have to be aware of such circumstances, as the foundation for domestic recovery is still yet to solidify and the growth of some enterprises in the service sector as well as among small and micro-businesses remains slow. In the wake of the new situation and problems in economic recovery, we will continue to follow the deployments in the government work report, as well as continue to consolidate the foundation for steady growth, ramp up efforts to achieve progress, and maintain the bottom line for ensuring economic growth to keep economic performance within the proper range throughout the year. 

Thank you.

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