Economic rebound signals resilience, confidence

Wang Yong
The Chinese economy has returned to positive growth thanks to sustained consumer spending and employment gains, providing a solid foundation for further progress.
Wang Yong

Despite lingering effects of COVID-19, China posted positive economic growth in the first three quarters, reversing a negative narrative from the first half of this year. 

The National Bureau of Statistics said on Monday that China's GDP in the first three quarters edged up 0.7 percent over the same period last year to more than 72 trillion yuan (US$10.77 trillion). In contrast, the country's GDP decreased 6.8 percent in the first quarter, but increased 3.2 percent in the second and 4.9 percent in the third. 

The growth rate for the first half of this year was a negative 1.6 percent, said a report from the central government's official website on Monday.

The gradual recovery of the Chinese economy attests to both its resilience and the country's overall control of the epidemic. The just-concluded National Day holiday was a case in point. During the eight-day holiday, more than 600 million travelers hit the road across the country, nearly 80 percent of last year's total number, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Total tourism revenue during the holiday hit more than 460 billion yuan, nearly 70 percent of last year's figure. 

Given people's generally cautious attitude toward the epidemic, such a recovery signals a considerable confidence of many consumers in the country's ability to keep the novel coronavirus largely at bay, and the strong will of many people to spend on the pleasure of traveling.

Indeed, consumer spending has been a key catapult of economic growth, along with fixed-asset investment and international trade. Aside from a recovering tourism sector, online retail sales in the first three quarters increased 9.7 percent over the corresponding period last year to more than 8 trillion yuan. Of this, online retail sales of consumer goods surged 15.3 percent to more than 6 trillion yuan, accounting for 24.3 percent of the country's total retail sales of consumer goods. But statistics show that there is still room for offline consumer goods sales to pick up. 

As for the job market, the picture was also mixed. In the first three quarters, the country's cities and towns reported an increase of nearly 9 million jobs, fulfilling 99.8 percent of this year's target. But at the end of the third quarter, the number of migrant workers leaving the countryside dwindled by about 3.8 million, or 2.1 percent over the same time last year. 

If the countryside can absorb more labor, the Chinese economy will be more balanced and sustainable in the future, as it will run on the twin wheels of urban and rural development. Indeed, as China pushes forward its campaign to revive the countryside, rural income has been growing steadily. In the first three quarters, rural per capita disposable income reached 12,297 yuan, up 5.8 percent in nominal terms and 1.6 percent in real terms over the same period last year. As a result, the urban-rural income gap was further narrowed. 

Zhang Qiyue, a senior diplomat and a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, wrote in a recently published article that efforts should be made to further revitalize the rural economy and life to help reduce relative poverty. Indeed, the vast countryside is in many ways a huge market yet to be further tapped, as a potential source of sustainable production and consumption. 

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