by Sergio Gomez
China’s 2023 economic growth target of around 5 percent unveiled at the ongoing “two sessions” certainly gave a fillip to the world.
As the announcement was made, I couldn’t help but recall the scenes I witnessed in the port city of Tianjin some time ago.
At Tianjin airport, planes would intermittently roar and accelerate, taking off into the vast sky. China’s economic engine appears to be doing the same, powering ahead after vanquishing COVID-19.
As the world’s second-largest economy, China’s annual growth target exerts a significant global impact, with the target coinciding with the recent projection from Moody’s Investors Service.
Since the end of last year, many international organizations have continuously raised their growth projections for China’s economy. From the concrete data for the first two months, the signal of a strong rebound is even more significant. Foreign direct investment into the Chinese mainland, in actual use, expanded 14.5 percent year on year in January, while the purchasing managers’ index for China’s manufacturing sector came in at 52.6 in February, maintaining expansion for two straight months.
Airports and railway stations serve as important vantage points for witnessing local economic and social progress, no matter where you are. Just two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Tianjin Binhai International Airport, over 100 km away from Beijing. My goal was to get a glimpse of how the transportation industry is performing after China’s adjustment and optimization of its COVID prevention and control policies.
Tianjin is an important port city and foreign trade port in north China. The city is home to over 13 million residents, more than the entire population of Cuba. In addition to expressways, there is also an intercity railway linking the two megacities of Beijing and Tianjin, with a maximum speed of 350 kph.
It takes about 30 minutes to reach downtown Tianjin from the Beijing South Railway Station. I departed during the evening rush hour on a workday. Once I boarded the Beijing subway toward the railway station, I instantly regretted my decision as there were an overwhelming amount of people.
After this year’s Spring Festival, the usual hustle and bustle returned to Beijing. For the public, the allure of big cities never seems to fade, and with the economy making a rapid recovery, there are now more job opportunities available.
My visit to Tianjin airport the following day only served to reinforce my initial impression. The waiting hall was teeming with people and there were long queues at the check-in counters. I espied a lovely couple holding their adorable granddaughter excitedly waiting to embark on their first-ever flight for a vacation.
As I waited in the baggage claim area, I had the pleasure of encountering a friendly local named Wang Yan. He shared with me how convenient the direct flight to Thailand was, as he had just returned from a delightful holiday with his mother.
The vitality of the transport sector stands as a prime example of China’s robust economic recovery. During the 40-day Spring Festival travel rush, the flow of people traveling around the country resulted in a staggering 4.7 billion trips.
To achieve this year’s growth target, China needs to give greater play to consumption. Priority will be given to the recovery and expansion of consumption, according to a government work report submitted Sunday to the national legislature for deliberation.
The report also called for fostering rural industries with local features to create more channels for increasing rural incomes.
The content of the report has great relevance for ordinary Chinese. I can vividly recall my visit to Jinping Village in the city of Longnan in Gansu Province. The remote mountainous village in western China was once plagued by poverty and a lack of progress. However, under the guidance of the local government, the villagers have turned their fortunes around by planting olive trees.
One villager, in particular, named Jia Yongxiang, stands out in my memory. In the past, he struggled to make ends meet despite his tireless efforts throughout the year. Now, he has built a three-story villa in the village and owns two apartments in the city, exemplifying the transformation the village has undergone.
Such stories are a common occurrence in the vast expanse of China. Over the past decade, the country has created the world’s largest and most dynamic middle-income group, with over 400 million people. Thanks to the implementation of effective policies for poverty alleviation and rural revitalization, the per capita disposable income of rural residents has continued to grow at a faster pace than that of urban residents. In the next 15 years, China’s middle-income group is expected to exceed 800 million, further driving the development of an enormous market.
The resilience and vitality of the Chinese economy are fortified by the comprehensive industrial system, the stable and secure supply chain, and the efficient and interconnected infrastructure network. At the same time, China continues to promote high-standard opening up and the effective integration of domestic and international markets and resources.
The balmy breeze of China’s economic revival has already traversed the Pacific. Chilean cherries remain a popular gift for Chinese people visiting friends and relatives during the Spring Festival holiday. I shared this discovery on my social media account. Hearteningly, numerous netizens informed me that all members of the industry have reaped the benefits of this surge in demand.
In Chile, located nearly 20,000 km away from China, the cherry planting area has increased by about four times since 2011, and around 90 percent of the output is exported to China. Industry data from Chile shows that, despite the impact of the epidemic, the export value of Chilean cherries to China grew by 8 percent in 2022.
From fruit farmers in Chile to beaches in Thailand, and from luxury stores in Paris to multinational companies, the entire world is experiencing the positive ripple effects of China’s economic recovery.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, China’s economy has kicked off the Year of the Rabbit with a bounce worthy of its sprightly zodiac avatar, raising the probability of stronger global growth this year.
Over the past five years, China’s GDP registered an annual average growth rate of more than 5 percent, beating the global average. In the past decade, the country’s GDP doubled, cementing its position as the biggest contributor to global growth.
China has set a growth target of around 5 percent for the current year, thus confirming the predictions of many economists who had foreseen a general improvement in the Chinese economy in 2023.
The “two sessions” have emitted signals of a robust economic rebound, which is a welcome sight for a world grappling with inflation and recession. In such a climate, the vitality of China is needed now more than ever.