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China's economy is seeing a palpable recovery in the early stages of 2023 with multiple highlights, a signal that economists believe bodes a promising prospect for the full-year growth target.
China's value-added industrial output, an important economic indicator on the supply side, went up 2.4 percent year-on-year in the first two months of 2023, expanding by 1.1 percentage points from the level in December 2022, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released on Wednesday.
On the demand side, the retail sales of consumer goods, fixed-asset investment and exports of goods -- major gauges for consumption, investment and foreign trade -- rose 3.5 percent, 5.5 percent and 0.9 percent year-on-year during the same period, respectively, data revealed.
Analysts noted that consumption, in particular, emerged as a major bright spot of China's economic operations.
The 3.5-percent growth was still lower than the pre-COVID level, but was 5.3 percentage points higher from the level in December 2022, said Liao Qun, chief economist of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China, viewing the figure as a telling sign of merchandise consumption revival.
Wednesday's data added to the already prominent evidence of China's incremental economic recovery.
Central bank data released last week showed that the country's new yuan-denominated loans and newly added social financing, indicators reflecting credit supply and demand, both recorded expectation-beating growth in February from the same period last year.
The purchasing managers' index for China's manufacturing sector, which came in at 52.6 in February, up from 50.1 in January, suggested that more brisk expansion in factory activity had shored up market confidence in a broader economic recovery.
Boosted by such positive signs, economists are upbeat about China's economic outlook. "China's economy rebounding vigorously from COVID-19 in 2023 is a high probability event," Liao said.
China's government unveiled a target for the Chinese economy to expand by around 5 percent this year, faster than the 3-percent growth recorded in 2022, in its government work report adopted this week.
Wen Bin, chief economist with China Minsheng Bank, anticipated the 2023 economy to attain an even higher growth, "as the economic fundamentals are to be further underpinned by the sustaining policy effects and improving market confidence."
However, he also said that meeting the 2023 economic growth target would require hard work and warned about potential threats to the economic foundations, such as the mounting pressure faced by the employment market and a yet-to-be-stabilized property market.
Policy-makers have already paid due attention to related issues, Wen added. He cited the government's work report which proposed creating around 12 million new urban jobs in 2023, the highest number on record, and which proposed efforts to ensure effective risk prevention and mitigation in high-quality and leading real estate enterprises.
China will also give priority to expanding domestic demand, in order to anchor its growth on firmer home ground, against the backdrop of complicated international situations, NBS spokesperson Fu Linghui told a press conference Wednesday.
Factors that hinder consumption development are abating gradually, Fu said. "As employment resumes and resident income increases, consumption will play a more apparent role in lifting economic growth," he added.