China grew 6.5% in the last quarter of 2020, completing the series with an annual mark of 2.3%. In light of the data published on Monday morning by the National Statistical Office (NBS, according to its acronym in English) the GDP of the Asian giant can be seen as the glass: half empty or half full. Registering its lowest result in almost half a century or being the only major economy that remains in positive territory despite the health crisis.
The country had not advanced so slowly since 1976. In that fateful year, the death of Mao Zedong, its prime minister Zhou Enlai and another quarter of a million other people were added to the death throes of the Cultural Revolution - unofficial figures rise the tally to 750,000 - because of the devastating Tangshan earthquake. The economy contracted 1.6% and its rapid development has remained unchanged since then.
In the face of the pandemic context, however, the optimistic reading prevails. China has managed to turn around a year that began with the virus threatening to become its particular Chernobyl. After a historic drop of 6.8% in the first quarter, it escaped the recession and has been accelerating with a rebound of 3.2% in the second and 4.9% in the third. So much so that it is already expanding faster than before the disaster: the fourth quarter of 2019 registered 6% compared to 6.5% today.
"China is expected to become the only major economy in the world that achieves positive growth throughout the year," celebrated Ning Jizhe, director of the NBS, while ensuring that GDP "has returned to its normal level." The result is also higher than the 2.1% predicted by the Bloomberg survey of experts. Recent estimates from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) pointed out that China will continue to gain ground, raising its pace to 7.9% in 2021.
The international organization published two weeks ago Article IV dedicated to the Asian giant, an annual document by which it assesses the situation of its member countries. In it, the IMF pointed out that "structural reforms have advanced despite the pandemic, although not uniformly." The text praised the openness of the financial sector while noting that "progress in the reform of the real estate sector has been slow, particularly in the area of state-owned companies and competitive neutrality with private firms." Looking to the future, "fiscal, monetary and structural policies must aim to strengthen private demand" to alleviate "still unbalanced growth".