Wednesday Briefing: China’s Economy Grew Faster Than Expected

A clothing store in Shenzhen. Retail sales in China have picked up.Credit…Qilai Shen for The New York Times

China’s economy grew more than expected

China’s National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday that the economy grew 1.6 percent in the first quarter over the previous three months, despite a severe real estate crisis and sluggish spending at home. When projected out for the entire year, the first-quarter data indicates that the economy was growing at an annual rate of about 6.6 percent. China had set a growth target of about 5 percent for the year, a goal that many economists viewed as ambitious.

The economic boost came from a familiar tactic: heavy investment in manufacturing, including a binge of new factories that have helped to propel sales around the world of solar panels, electric cars and other products.

“China may have found a way to blunt the effects of its housing market crisis,” my colleague Keith Bradsher told us, “but only if Beijing can persuade other countries to buy more manufactured goods than ever from China.”

Foreign countries and companies are concerned that a flood of Chinese shipments to distant markets may undermine their own manufacturing industries and lead to layoffs.

The Chinese government has encouraged families to spend more, but households are “unenthusiastic” about being the ones to consume this burst of manufactured goods, Keith said. Many Chinese households borrowed heavily to invest in apartments and are responding to falling home prices by cutting back their spending.

On a trip to China this week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz promoted his country’s business interests while raising concerns over Beijing’s surge of exports to Europe and its support for Russia.

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