China birth rate hits lowest level since 1949

Daniel Fowler
January 17, 2020

China's economy grew by 6.1% in 2019, its slowest pace since 1990 as it was hit by weaker demand and a bruising trade war with the United States.

But data on Friday also showed the world's second-largest economy ended the year on a firmer note as trade tensions eased, suggesting a raft of growth boosting measures over the past two years may finally be starting to take hold.

This year is crucial for the ruling Communist Party to fulfill its goal of doubling gross domestic product (GDP) and incomes in the decade to 2020, and turning China into a "moderately prosperous" nation.

Retail sales growth came in at 8.0 per cent, down from 9.0 per cent in the year before.

China's USA crude imports dropped 43% to 138,790 barrels per day (bpd) in the first 11 months of 2019 from a peak of 245,600 bpd in 2018 after Beijing imposed a 5% import tariff on US oil amid as trade tension rose between the world's biggest economies.

The figure is within Beijing's official target of 6.0% to 6.5%, but down from 6.6% in 2018.

China's birth rate dropped past year to its lowest level since the Communist country was founded in 1949, adding to concerns that an ageing society and shrinking workforce will pile pressure on a slowing economy.

On a quarterly basis, the economy grew 1.5% in October-December, also in line with expectations and the same pace as the previous three months.

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"However, we should also be aware that the global economic and trade growth is slowing down", he said at a news conference.

Exports for the year totaled $2.498 trillion, up 0.5% - much slower growth than in 2018, largely due to a drop in shipments to the U.S.

December data released along with GDP showed a surprising acceleration in industrial output and a more modest pick up in investment growth, while retail sales were solid.

China is the world's second-largest economy that grew by 6.1 per cent past year. Fixed asset investment rose 5.4pc for the full year, but growth had plumbed record lows in autumn.

The World Bank said in a report this month that weakening exports in China had compounded the impact of its ongoing slowdown in domestic demand.

Ning Jizhe, commissioner of China's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), said China's economy generally sustained a stable momentum of growth in 2019.

In return, the USA has pledged to slash in half some of the tariffs imposed on China, but levies remain in place on two-thirds of more than $500 billion in imports from the Asian country.

Beijing has been relying on a mix of fiscal and monetary steps to weather the current downturn, cutting taxes and allowing local governments to sell huge amounts of bonds to fund infrastructure projects. Growth in the last quarter of 2019 equaled the 6.0% logged in the July-September period.

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