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finance & economyMarch 17, 2023

China retail sales up after pandemic-reopening in the country

Chinese retail sales rebounded in January and February as Beijing abandoned its suffocating zero-COVID policy, reopening borders and ending mandatory quarantine, and the country celebrated the Lunar New Year holiday.

The 3.5 percent growth, released by the National Bureau of Statistics, came in line with expectations and was much better than the 1.8 percent drop suffered in December, indicating the world’s number two economy was picking up after years of painful restrictions.

And with Beijing this week announcing it will resume issuing tourist visas, there is a hope for a further improvement this year.

China usually releases January and February economic data together to ensure they are not skewed by the long Chinese New Year holiday.

Fixed-asset investment also showed an improvement, rising 5.5 percent in January-February -- beating forecasts of 4.5 percent growth -- as the government poured billions of dollars into building new railways and industrial parks, NBS data showed.

However, industrial output expanded 2.4 percent -- below the 2.6 percent expected.

“Production and demand have improved significantly, and employment and prices are generally stable,” the NBS said in a statement. “The economy is showing signs of stabilization and recovery.” China has set an economic growth target of “around five percent” for 2023, one of the lowest in decades.

But Premier Li Qiang has warned that even this was “not easy” to achieve as a grinding property crisis continued and global demand slowed.