BEIJING — China reported GDP rose 2.3% last year as the world struggled to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Gross domestic product grew by 6.5% in the fourth quarter from a year ago, official data from National Bureau of Statistics showed.
However, Chinese consumers remained reluctant to spend, as retail sales contracted 3.9% for the year. Retail sales for the fourth quarter rose 4.6% from a year ago.
Online sales of consumer goods rose at a relatively rapid pace of 14.8% last year, the statistics bureau said, but the proportion of overall retail sales held fairly steady at around one-fourth.
Economists expected China to have been the only major economy to grow last year, and predicted GDP expanded by just over 2%.
Covid-19 first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. In an effort to control the virus, Chinese authorities shut down more than half the country, and the economy contracted by 6.8% in the first three months of 2020.
However, China returned to growth by the second quarter. Economists polled by Reuters predicted GDP would increase 6.1% in the fourth quarter, faster than the 4.9% pace of the prior quarter.
China’s GDP growth figure this year will come off a lowered base.
In late December, the National Bureau of Statistics lowered China’s official growth rate for 2019 to 6.0%, versus the previously reported 6.1%. The cut primarily occurred in manufacturing, as factories dealt with new U.S. tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese goods.