China's economic growth rate in 2018 slipped to its lowest level in almost three decades, raising concerns over whether Beijing has done enough to arrest the deepening slowdown, at a time when the external environment is turning hostile and a mountain of debt at home is restricting the scope for additional stimulus.
China's two-child policy implemented in 2016 has failed to make an impact on the country's low birth rate as the number of new-borns dropped by two million a year ago in the world's most populous nation, according to official figures released Monday.
Numbers released by the National Bureau of Statistics today put the population at 1.395 billion in 2018, marking a growth rate of.38 per cent over the previous year.
Gross domestic product rose 6.4 per cent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, matching economists' estimates, and compared with 6.5 per cent in the previous three-month period.
There have now been three consecutive quarters of slowing GDP growth in China, stoking fears of the impact on the global economy, and increasing pressure on Beijing to act to boost consumer and business sentiment and spending with measures including easing credit restrictions, cutting taxes and state spending. The trade war with the USA has added to the gloomy outlook.
But these measures have so far failed to reverse the slowdown which saw activity levels in manufacturing fall close to or just under contraction levels in December.
However, the latest figures will not come as a surprise to many economists and analysts which have been flagging low birth rates in cities that were traditionally among the most fertile in China, for a number of years.
Output at factories and workshops ticked up 6.2 per cent for the year, down from 6.6 per cent in 2017.More news: Simona Halep: I have ‘nothing to lose’ facing Serena Williams
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Lu Bing, a manager at a clothing shop in Yancheng, said its sales dropped as much as 30 percent in 2018.
It's worth remembering that although China's growth has slowed, the economy is still growing. Better educated young Chinese face more complicated but also more varied job prospects and are less inclined than their parents to marry and start a family.
At the same time, Beijing has sought to control the dissemination of sensitive economic data amid its uncertain growth outlook.
"The China-US trade tensions, a hindrance to China's domestic economic transformation and upgrading, coupled with lack of confidence from investors, resulted in the nation's declining GDP growth in 2018", said Dong Dengxin, director of the Finance and Securities Institute at Wuhan University of Science and Technology.
"Things are going very well with China and with trade", he told reporters at the White House.
China adopted the universal second-child policy at the beginning of 2016, allowing all couples to have two children, to counter problems such as ageing and dwindling workforce.
Economists in China and overseas have long suspected data is massaged upward, often noting that full-year gross domestic product hits Beijing´s pre-set targets with suspicious regularity.
A cooling Chinese economy could hurt companies from iPhone maker Apple in the U.S. and carmakers in Europe to mineral exporters in Australia. The Shenzhen A-shares index added 0.6 percent to 1,390.84.