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Seven keywords that define China’s economy in 2018

(People's Daily Online)    09:52, January 23, 2019


China’s GDP hit the 90-trillion-yuan mark for the first time in 2018, growing by nearly 8 trillion yuan in a year.

Here are seven keywords that can define both the achievements and changes of China’s economic performance over the last year.

New momentum

China’s GDP growth hit a new low of 6.6 percent in 2018, its lowest since 1990. However, both the quality and efficiency of the country’s economy were improved.

The service sector accounted for 52.2 percent of the country’s total GDP, and the growth of the sector was 1.8 percent higher than that of the secondary industry. Additionally, value added by the high-tech manufacturing industry increased by 11.7 percent last year, accounting for 13.9 percent of industrial enterprises above the designated size. The figure was even higher in some coastal areas.

To be more specific, China’s high-tech manufacturing industry, emerging strategic industries, and equipment manufacturing industry saw growth of 11.7, 8.9 and 8.1 percent, respectively.

The absolute GDP growth is not the only thing that matters, and the internal structure of the economy is also crucial in the current economic environment, said chief macroeconomic researcher Zhang Wei from Kunlun Health Insurance Company’s asset management department.

Real estate market

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s real estate sector saw a total investment of over 12 trillion yuan in 2018, up 9.5 percent from the previous year. Nearly 1.7 billion square meters of housing was sold, 1.3 percent more than in 2017.

Ni Pengfei, director of the Center for City and Competitiveness at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that China’s real estate market reached the regulation target, and was stabilizing.

Ni predicted that the regulatory policies would remain almost the same in 2019, though minor adjustments might be made based on market variations. Stability would still be the general trend in 2019, he added.


China's fixed-asset investment (FAI) grew 5.9 percent year-on-year to nearly 63.6 trillion yuan in 2018. 39.4 trillion yuan of the total FAI came from private investment, up 8.7 percent, 2.7 percentage points higher than 2017.

Director of the Institute of Research at the Ministry of Finance Jia Kang recognized this 8.7-percent growth in private investment. However, he pointed out that given the downward trend of investment growth, investment from the government and state-owned sectors must have also experienced a downturn. This growth was expected to be lower than 5.9 percent, he added.

Non-private investment can unleash potential, and China has already done an excellent job in the positioning and necessary adjustment of its macro policies, such as proactive fiscal policies, as well as its adequately managed monetary policies.

It is necessary for China to further expand its domestic market through investment, Jia added.


China’s total retail sales of consumer goods stood at nearly 38.1 trillion yuan last year, up 9 percent from 2017.

Final consumption contributed 76.2 percent to China’s GDP growth, 18.6 percentage points more than in 2017.

The slight decrease of resident income and the transition from consumption of goods to services were the primary reasons for the slowing growth of total retail sales of consumer goods, explained Wang Qing, the chief macro analyzer of a Chinese credit rating agency.

In 2018, consumer spending in urban areas rose 6.8 percent. This opposing trend suggests a rapid increase in residents’ service consumption.


After a large-scale tax reduction, China’s tax revenue expanded by 9.5 percent in 2018. Growth would have been more substantial were it not for the tax cut, said Liu Jianwen, a professor at Peking University Law School.

The growth decreased throughout 2018, from 16.8 percent in the first four months of 2018 to 5.2 percent during the rest of the year. Moreover, over 1.5 trillion yuan of tax was refunded by China last year, 9.7 percent more than in 2017. These have all reflected the effects of China’s tax reduction.

Liu noted that China would adopt a more substantial tax cut in 2019 to promote economic development.

Unemployment rate

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, 13.61 million urban jobs were created last year, 100,000 more than in 2017. That figure has now remained above 13 million for six straight years.

By December 2018, the urban unemployment rate in 31 big cities stood at 4.7 percent, down 0.2 percentage points compared with 2017. 4.4 percent of the main working group, those between the age of 25 and 29, were unemployed.

Bai Ming, deputy director of the Ministry of Commerce’s International Market Research Institute, explained that China had maintained a relatively low unemployment rate of around 5 percent. The figure is generally 6.6 percent in developed countries and 5.5 percent in developing countries, he noted.

He attributed the performance to China’s mass entrepreneurship and innovation, its advantages as the world’s factory, as well as the rising of emerging industries, including the service sector and information industry.

Birth rate

China’s total population stood at 1.395 billion at the end of 2018, increasing 5.3 million from a year ago. 15.23 million people were born last year, with a birth rate of 10.94 per thousand, down from 12.43 per thousand in 2017.

With 9.93 million deaths, the natural population growth rate stood at 3.81 per thousand, a dip from 5.32 per thousand the year before.

China's demographic dividend still exists, and there is no need to over-interpret a dip in the population growth rate or birth rate, said Ning Jizhe, head of the National Bureau of Statistics.

Ning said China has a workforce pool of about 900 million people, with over 700 million of them currently in employment. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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