China’s economy grows still-weak 4.8% in January-March

AP file photo
People wearing face masks shop clothing during a promotion New Year sale at a mall in Beijing on Jan. 16, 2022.

BEIJING (AP) — China’s economic growth edged up to a still-weak 4.8% over a year ago in the first three months of 2022 as spreading coronavirus outbreaks prompted the shutdown of major industrial cities.

Growth crept up from the previous quarter’s 4% following a slump triggered by tighter government controls on use of debt by China’s vast real estate industry, official data showed Monday. Compared with the previous quarter, as other major economies are measured, growth declined to 1.3% from 1.4%.

First quarter growth was well below the ruling Communist Party’s official target of 5.5% for the year. Forecasters have said that will be hard to meet without more government stimulus spending.

Retail spending, factory output and investment in factories, real estate and other fixed assets rose.

The national economic recovery was sustained and the operation of the economy was generally stable, said a government statement.

Authorities have suspended access to Shanghai and some other industrial cities to contain virus outbreaks under the ruling party’s “zero-COVID” strategy to isolate every infected person. Global automakers and other manufacturers have stopped or reduced production due to supply disruptions.

The ruling party already was promising tax refunds to businesses to reverse the slump that began in mid-2021. Last week, Premier Li Keqiang, the No. 2 leader, called for quicker action to get help to struggling entrepreneurs.

Retail sales rose by a modest 3.3% over a year earlier after consumer demand was hurt by a government appeal for the public to avoid traveling during February’s Lunar New Year holiday, normally a time for gift-giving and banquets.

Factory output rose 6.5% over a year earlier. Investment in factories, real estate and other fixed assets increased 9.3%, possibly reflecting official orders to banks to lend more easily.