China’s economy grew a record 18.3% within the half-moon of 2021 compared to an equivalent quarter last year.
It’s the biggest jump in the gross domestic product (GDP) since China started keeping quarterly records in 1992.
However, Friday’s figures are below expectations, with a Reuters poll of economists predicting 19% growth.
They are also heavily skewed, and fewer indicative of strong growth, as they’re compared to last year’s huge economic contraction.
As a baseline, they use the first quarter of 2020, when China’s economy shrank 6.8% due to nationwide lockdowns at the peak of its Covid-19 outbreak.
Other key figures released by China’s statistics department also point to an unbroken rebound but also are unusually strong because they’re compared against extremely weak numbers from last year.
Industrial output for March rose 14.1% over a year ago, while retail sales grew 34.2%.
“Promisingly, the monthly indicators suggest that industrial production, consumption, and investment all gained pace in advance a sequential basis, following the weakness within the first two months,” said Louis Kuijs from Oxford economics.
It’s not all excellent news for China’s economy, with analysts predicting some sectors will slow because the government’s fiscal and monetary stimulus measures are reduced.
Yue Su, from the Economist Intelligence Unit, said that while the latest figures show that China’s economic recovery is broad-based, some production and export activity could have been “front-loaded” into the first quarter, suggesting slower growth ahead.
“Trade performance and domestic industrial activities for the rest of year might not be able to maintain such strong momentum, due to lack of measures to stimulate the domestic economy,” she said.
The figures nevertheless suggest China has continued to gain economic momentum, after posting 6.5% economic growth in the last quarter of 2020.
Helped by strict virus containment measures and emergency relief for businesses, the economy has recovered steadily since the pandemic hit.
Despite a calamitous start to the year, China was the sole major economy to register growth in 2020.
Nevertheless, the world’s second-largest economy only managed 2.3% growth, its weakest result in decades.
China has set an economic growth target of 6% for 2021, after scrapping its target last year.