China GDP Numbers Are Hiding Lockdown Doom
China GDP Numbers Are Hiding Lockdown Doom
The headlines about the newest gross domestic product quarterly numbers from China aren’t telling the whole story.
Yes, on the surface, the economic news out of China looks snazzy and promising.
China's first quarter GDP beats expectations to grow 4.8% year-on-year https://t.co/5i38BrGQde
— CNBC (@CNBC) April 18, 2022
However, other outlets – including the New York Times and Bloomberg – decided to put in the headlines what other outlets put further down in the story. Those growth numbers? They’re mostly from January and February. As I write this, Shanghai – the largest city in China, and the world – just finished their 29th day in lockdown, which means that the city considered the “economic hub” of China has been ground to a halt for a full month.
The New York Times laid out the impending economic doom right off the bat.
China’s economy expanded 4.8 percent in the first three months of this year compared to the same period last year. That pace was barely faster than the final three months of last year, and it also obscured a looming problem.”
Much of that growth was recorded in January and February. Last month, economic activity slowed as Shenzhen, the technology hub in the south, and then Shanghai, the country’s biggest city, and other important industrial centers shut down. The lockdowns suspended assembly lines, grounded workers, trapped truck drivers and snarled ports. They confined hundreds of millions of consumers at home.”
Retail sales, a crucial sign of whether consumers are spending, fell 3.5 percent in March from a year ago, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Monday. Factory output grew 5 percent, a rate that was slower than the pace recorded in the first two months. Imports, which had been racing ahead in the first two months of the year, fell slightly last month, partly because of transportation snags.”
The slowdown that started in March is expected to worsen this month, with even more regions placed under restrictions. This is bad news for China’s leaders, who have set a target of “about 5.5 percent” growth for the year.”
Bloomberg also looked beyond the rosy headlines, and pointed out that some in China are starting to sound a warning.
With outbreaks showing no signs of ending and President Xi Jinping doubling down on his strict Covid Zero approach, economists say China will struggle to meet its ambitious goal of growing the economy by around 5.5% this year. The consensus now is for GDP growth to slow to 5% this year, with the economy also having to contend with geopolitical tensions, heightened global inflation pressures, and slowing external demand.”
“We must be aware that with the domestic and international environment becoming increasingly complicated and uncertain, the economic development is facing significant difficulties and challenges,” the National Bureau of Statistics said in a statement.”
And Shanghai’s lockdown, if it continues, will mean trouble for the rest of the world. The supply chain has already been proven to be brittle. China’s insistence on “zero COVID” could snap it yet again.
But the supply chain problems aren’t on the minds of the people of Shanghai. Protests have begun to erupt – though they are quickly slapped down – and despair is spreading.
The poor old lady jumped out of her house due to starvation and desperation. Her husband was crying next to her body hopelessly. #HumanRights #CCP #China #Shanghai #COVID19 #ZeroCovid pic.twitter.com/YpuZs4enwF
— Quantumist-Sam (@martingalequant) April 16, 2022
There are over 25 million people in Shanghai – too many for the Chinese Communist Party to monitor and control all at the same time. Too many to not believe the lies of the government that they have everything under control, just stay in your homes, “control your soul’s desire for freedom,” and wait for a food delivery that might not come at all. And all of this, despite China’s best efforts, is leaking out via the internet – and could signal a bigger impending doom for China at large.
The world has been aghast at images being streamed by the connected and sophisticated people of Shanghai: people leaping from high-rises to their deaths in order to escape the lockdown. Babies separated from their parents and carted around quarantine centers in huge shopping carts. Parents beaten by the health police in front of their children. People opening their windows to scream in unison: “We’re hungry!” Who imagined that this could happen in Shanghai, one of the wealthiest cities in the world? Certainly not Shanghai people. It has been some 60 years since any but a handful of people went hungry in Shanghai.”
… China’s aggressive mobilization of tracking, testing, and tracing has provided high credibility with Chinese inside and outside China and with the international world.”
Now that perception has radically changed, as the established policy confronts newer, faster-spreading variants, and the Party seems incapable of changing courses. The Party is locked down in its own self-made policy claims and propaganda. The botched lockdowns and flow of damaging videos and testimonials undermine Xi’s core messages: infallibility of the Party and total focus on the welfare of the people.”
Xi Jinping would like to convince the people of Shanghai that it is perfectly acceptable to starve to death in the pursuit of “zero COVID.” The shiny headlines about the GDP growth in the first quarter certainly looks good at first blush, until the rest of the report follows. China unleashed COVID-19 on the world, and now there seems to be a real possibility that it could strangle itself – economically and socially – in an attempt to control Omicron. And while the CCP would deserve it, it is the wailing husband standing next to the body of his wife that is paying the real price.
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