China's economy grew a forecast-busting 4.5 percent in the first quarter as the country reopened after the end of zero-Covid measures late last year, official data showed Tuesday (Apr 18).
The figures were the first snapshot since 2019 of the world's second-largest economy unencumbered by the strict health measures that helped keep the coronavirus in check but battered businesses and supply chains.
A key driver of the standout reading was a bounce in retail sales, the main indicator of household consumption, which surged 10.6 percent on-year in March, the biggest increase since June 2021.
However, industrial production climbed 3.9 percent last month, an improvement from January-February but below analysts' expectations of 4.4 percent, according to data published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
Tuesday's NBS report said in the first three months of the year China had faced a "grave and complex international environment as well as arduous tasks to advance reform, development and ensure stability at home".
Beijing's virus-containment policy – an unstinting regime of strict quarantines, mass testing and travel curbs – strongly constrained normal economic activity before it was abruptly ditched in December.
The Chinese economy is also beset by a series of other crises, from a debt-laden property sector to flagging consumer confidence, global inflation, the threat of recession elsewhere, and geopolitical tensions with the United States.
Since the rapid dismantling of the suffocating zero-Covid policy, Chinese people have in recent months returned to restaurants and started to travel again, giving much-needed stimulus to services.