China posts sluggish GDP growth in 2023, population declines again.

China’s economy grew by 5.2 percent in 2023, hitting the government’s official target, but concerns about growth momentum remain amid a protracted property crisis, sluggish consumer and business confidence, and weak global growth.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics said gross domestic product (GDP) in the world’s second-biggest economy also rose by 5.2 percent in the final three months of 2023, compared with the same period last year.

Kang Yi, the bureau’s head, said the expansion had been “hard won” and cautioned that the economy faced a complex external environment and insufficient demand moving into 2024.

In 2022, China’s economy grew by just 3 percent as a result of prolonged COVID-19 regulations linked to its zero-COVID policy.

After lifting the measures at the end of 2022, Beijing set itself a growth target of “around five percent” for last year.

After an initial post-pandemic rebound, the economy has been weighed down by the continuing crisis in the property market where the authorities have been trying to rein in massive debts and speculation, as well as record youth unemployment and a global slowdown.

Exports – historically a key growth lever – fell last year for the first time since 2016, according to figures published by the customs agency on Friday.

Geopolitical tensions with the United States and efforts by some Western nations to reduce dependence on China or diversify their supply chains have also hit growth.

Chinese officials are due to release their growth target for 2024 in March.

The National Bureau of Statistics said the total number of people in China dropped by 2.08 million, or 0.15 percent, to 1.409 billion in 2023.

That was well above the population decline of 850,000 in 2022, which had been the first since 1961, during the Great Famine of the Mao Zedong era.

Total deaths last year rose by 6.6 percent to 11.1 million, with the death rate reaching the highest level since 1974, during the Cultural Revolution.

New births fell 5.7 percent to 9.02 million and the birth rate was a record low 6.39 births per 1,000 people, down from a rate of 6.77 births in 2022.

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