With growth of 8.1% in 2021, China has not only greatly exceeded its own forecasts – set at 6% – but has returned to a level it has not seen for ten years. In 2011, China’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 9.5%. A rate that has continued to decline ever since. But the figures for 2021 are to be put into perspective. They are based on a comparison with 2020 where growth was only 2.3% due to Covid-19. Moreover, in 2021, Chinese growth has continued to slow down, quarter after quarter: 18.3% in the first quarter compared to the 1is quarter of 2020, 7.9% in the second, 4.9% in the third and, as we learned on Monday January 17, 4% in the 4e quarter compared to the last quarter of 2020. Compared to the previous quarter, the growth is only 1.6%.
Even though China can boast of doing better than the other G20 countries, its economy is therefore slowing down. Moreover, the two phenomena are linked as Chinese growth continues to be largely driven by exports. The United States may wage a trade war against it, maritime and air traffic may be disrupted by the Covid-19, semiconductors may be desired like rain in the desert, nothing helps: in 2021, exports Chinese again jumped 29.9%.
With a trade surplus which even reached 676.4 billion dollars (592.1 billion euros), up 30%. And more than half of this surplus (396.6 billion) is achieved with… the United States, its first partner. With the European Union, its second partner, the result is just as spectacular since the Chinese surplus jumped by… 57.4% to reach 208.4 billion dollars (182 billion euros).
Computers, toys, medical equipment… no one can do without “made in China”. But the reverse is also true. Chinese imports grew in 2021 at an equivalent rate: 30.1%, partly due to the increase in raw materials. Thus, Chinese oil imports fell by 5.4% in volume, but jumped by 44.2% in value.
According to the new doxa, the country must face a triple difficulty: “a contraction in demand, supply shocks and lower expectations”
With such figures, Chinese officials could be satisfied. But reporting good results when they are predicted to be the last is tricky. Most economists and leaders highlight the difficulties facing the economy in 2022. According to the new doxa that appeared in December 2021 at the end of a seminar chaired by President Xi Jinping, the country must face a triple difficulty: “demand contraction, supply shocks and lower expectations”.
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