Jul 14, 2022 - Economy

China's economy grows at slowest pace since 2020 as lockdowns bite

Health workers perform Covid-19 swab tests on residents in Shanghai earlier this month. Photo: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Economic growth in China slowed sharply last quarter — with the economy expanding 0.4% from a year ago, the government said — as the country’s "zero COVID" policy spurred lockdowns in major cities that lasted for much of the three-month period.

Why it matters: Aggressive efforts to stamp out COVID-19 infections brought factory production and consumer spending to a crawl in the world’s second-biggest economy.

  • China's economy managed to avoid a contraction by this measure, according to its government data — but recorded the slowest pace of growth since the beginning of 2020, when COVID initially spread in the country.
  • For context, China's economy grew 4.8% in the first quarter from the previous year.
  • By a different measure, the economy contracted 2.6% quarter-over-quarter in the April-June period.

The big picture: Lockdowns in China were felt across the world, as delayed shipments of goods to other countries compounded the supply chain snarls that have pushed up inflation.

  • More recent economic data — also released by the country’s government on Thursday — points to recovering economic activity: in June, retail sales grew 3.1% (compared to a contraction of 7% in May) as restrictions in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai eased.
  • Thirty-one cities remain under full or partial lockdowns, accounting for over 17% of the country’s economic activity, by investment bank Nomura’s count this week.

The bottom line: It was clear China's economy would take a hit as the worst COVID-19 outbreak yet on the mainland forced strict lockdowns.

  • Though analysts have long treated government-released economic growth figures with suspicion, the data is a general gauge of just how much growth slowed.

Go deeper: China's COVID lockdowns deliver a punishing toll on economy

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