China’s economy beats expectations, growing 5.3 percent in first quarter

Statistics agency says economy has made ‘good start’ to the year under the leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China is investing heavily in infrastructure as part of its efforts to boost the economy [Ng Han Guan/AP]

China’s economy grew faster than expected in the first three months of the year, a boost for policymakers grappling with a property-sector crisis, weak consumer demand and mounting government debt.

Gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 5.3 percent in the first quarter, data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed on Tuesday, comfortably above forecasts and up from a 5.2 percent expansion in the previous quarter.

By sector, industrial production and agriculture grew by 6.1 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively, while services grew by 5 percent, according to NBS data.

The NBS said in a statement that the economy had made a “good start” under “the strong leadership” of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and President Xi Jinping.

“As a result, the policies continued to take effect, production and demands maintained stable and witnessed an increase, employment and prices were generally stable, market confidence continued to boost, and high-quality development made new progress,” the statistics agency said.

The stronger-than-expected figures came days after China reported that exports and imports declined 7.5 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively, in March, missing expectations.

The world’s second-largest economy has struggled to sustain a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic amid a range of longstanding structural challenges, including a hugely indebted real estate sector and a shrinking population.

Fitch Ratings earlier this month downgraded China’s sovereign credit outlook to negative, citing “increasing risks to China’s public finance outlook” as Beijing attempts to move away from real estate-led growth.

Beijing last month set a 5 percent growth target for 2024, a rate that would beat most developed economies but be among the country’s slowest expansions since 1990.

Officials have unveiled a number of fiscal and monetary policy measures to boost the economy, including $1.8 trillion in spending on major construction and infrastructure projects.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies