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China grew faster than its target and most projections in 2009 – what are the key takeaways?

Louis Kuijs's picture
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China’s economy grew 8.7 percent in 2009. This was more than the 8 percent target, despite the global recession that caused global output excluding China to fall about 3 percent. China’s growth outcome is substantially higher than projections made in early 2009. For instance, in our  World Bank quarterly economic update (of which I am the lead author) we projected 6.5 percent GDP growth and some other forecasts were even lower (see Figure 1).

How did these forecasts come about, and what lessons we can draw from the experience of China’s growth in 2009? I cannot speak for my colleagues at the World Bank, let alone for other economists. But, all in all, while I have learned important lessons, I am not sure how differently I would see and do things if again presented with a situation like we were in a year ago.

China: Robust growth in sight provides room for shift in policy focus

Louis Kuijs's picture

The economic data for the third quarter of 2009, released almost two weeks ago, confirmed an impressive recovery in China’s economy, supported by very large fiscal and monetary stimulus. Real GDP growth rose to 8.9 percent year-on-year in the third quarter. This is clearly good news, for China and many other countries whose economies are benefiting at the moment from strong demand from China. As the World Bank economic team for China (which I'm part of) argues in more detail in the new China Quarterly Update, it also means that it is time to consider a less expansionary macroeconomic policy stance and focus more on the structural reforms needed to rebalance the economy and get more growth out of the domestic economy on a sustained basis.

It’s not as if China has not been hit by the global recession. China’s real economy has been hit hard. Exports fell sharply since November last year, and the contribution of net external trade to GDP growth was minus 3.6 percent points in the first three quarters of this year – with the negative contribution particularly large in the third quarter (in year-on-year terms).

Growth in China continues to influence East Asia’s economic recovery, two new World Bank reports say

James I Davison's picture

Regionally speaking, developing countries in East Asia and Pacific have rebounded surprisingly quickly from the financial crisis and global recession. But according to a report just released by the World Bank, the regional economic picture isn’t as rosy when China is taken out of the equation. The latest East Asia and Pacific Update report, an assessment of the economic health of the region released every six months, is titled “Transforming the Rebound into Recovery.” The rebound, the report says, was driven in part by large and timely fiscal stimulus spending led by China and Korea. Still, despite the well-performing economies of Indonesia and Vietnam, developing East Asia excluding China is projected to grow at just around 1 percent in 2009. And for Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand, GDP is contracting.

The China Quarterly Update – a separate report released at the same time as the latest regional assessment and focusing specifically on the Chinese economy – gives a more complete picture of why the country has seen such robust economic growth and what the future may hold. The Bank now projects China to see GDP growth of 8.4 percent for 2009, says the report. The report’s lead author (and blogger) Louis Kuijs wrote an accompanying blog post, which can be read here.

I really recommend taking some time to explore the findings of both reports by visiting the East Asia Update and China Quarterly pages, where you can also download high resolution graphs and watch video interviews with the economists. Also, you'll be able to ask two World Bank economists questions about the regional report in an online chat taking place Thursday, November 12, at 10 a.m. DC time (15:00 GMT or 11:00 p.m. in Beijing). Send your questions now for a better chance of getting them answered.

China: what long-term policies and reforms are needed to sustain growth?

Louis Kuijs's picture

In a previous blog I summarized our views on China’s growth prospects, developed while writing the World Bank’s recent China Quarterly Update economic report. We think that China is likely to continue to see respectable growth in a difficult global environment.

How can China keep on growing while its exports are shrinking?

Louis Kuijs's picture

Getting a clear view on where China’s economy is heading is not easy at the moment, as evidenced by large variations in GDP growth forecasts. One of the confusing developments is that while exports have continued to do badly recently, the domestic economy has exceeded most observers’ expectations by a wide margin.

Working in recent weeks on the World Bank’s new China Quarterly Update, released today, we have been trying to determine how the economy has been doing on balance, what the prospects are, and what this means for economic policy. In this blog, I will summarize our understanding of recent developments and prospects, leaving the upshot for economic policies for a later discussion (keep reading after the jump).

China and stimulus packages: the best way to respond to more bad news?

Louis Kuijs's picture

A few days ago, our country director David Dollar blogged about the two-sided picture we see when we look at China's economic growth. The economy saw very weak export demand, which partly carried over into weak investment in manufacturing and other "market-based" sectors. Continued growth in other parts of the domestic economy was supported by policy stimulus.

China has weathered the crisis better than many other countries because it does not rely on external financing, its banks have been largely unscathed by the international financial turmoil, and it has the fiscal and macroeconomic space to implement forceful stimulus measures. China’s government has made use of this policy space by pursuing pretty forceful fiscal and monetary stimulus. From early November last year onwards, the government's 10-point plan ("RMB 4 trillion package") is being implemented. This plan emphasizes infrastructure and other investment, financed in part by government budget spending, and in part by bank lending. And the government has taken some additional, more consumption-oriented measures.

Chat live with China experts David Dollar and Louis Kuijs on March 26

James I Davison's picture

With the release last week of its latest quarterly assessment of the Chinese economy, the World Bank lowered its projection for China's GDP growth to 6.5 percent in 2009, yet remained optimistic that the country's economy has started to show signs of stabilizing amid global financial turmoil.

Reading tea leaves for signs of China's recovery

David Dollar's picture

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What to make of it when, within a few hours last week, the statistical bureau depressed us with a 26% decline in exports for February and then elated us with a 27% increase in urban fixed asset investment? These two figures capture nicely the struggle that is going on within the Chinese economy.

We launched our China Quarterly report today with our take on how to reconcile the conflicting data. Clearly, the global economy is in very poor shape. Global GDP declined at an annualized rate of 5% in the fourth quarter of 2008, and global industrial production declined at a 20% rate. These are shocking numbers that those of us born after the 1930s have never seen. Naturally this has had a large effect on China, which is an open, export-oriented economy. China's seasonally adjusted monthly exports peaked at around $120 billion last fall, and then fell off a cliff – dropping by about one-third (see chart).

China experts to answer questions in live online chat

James I Davison's picture

Amid all the news of the slowing global economy, I’m not sure anyone was too surprised that the World Bank’s latest China economic projections estimate the country’s economic growth, despite remaining relatively strong, will continue to slow in 2009.

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