China's gross domestic product grew an inflation-adjusted 3% in 2022, down sharply from 8.1% the year before and only modestly higher than the 2.3% gain for the first full year of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the National Bureau of Statistics of China announced Tuesday.
An NBS news release gave Beijing solid marks for coordinating the work of epidemic prevention and control "in an effective way," even as policymakers in December abandoned China's "zero-COVID" policy of locking down cities as big as Shanghai to contain the pandemic.
Analysts said explosive growth in the number of Chinese citizens catching COVID-19 in the month or so since policymakers relaxed mobility restrictions, against a backdrop of countrywide protests, should prove to be a case of short-term pain leading to a faster, stronger economic rebound.
"In December, cyclical indicators further deteriorated when infection cases quickly peaked after stringent measures were relaxed across the country" but that month could prove to be "the bottom of China's growth trajectory in the near term, noted Chaoping Zhu, Shanghai-based global market strategist with J.P. Morgan Asset Management, in an email.
Tuesday's announcement by the National Bureau of Statistics said according to preliminary estimates, China's GDP came to 121.02 trillion yuan ($17.47 trillion) by the end of 2022.
If COVID-19 has dominated China's near-term economic outlook, the population data for the latest year could point to more intractable challenges.
The National Bureau of Statistics said China's population ended 2022 at 1.4 billion, down roughly 850,000 from a year before — the first decline in decades.
For the year, the number of births was 9.56 million, or 6.77 per thousand, while there were 10.41 million deaths, or 7.37 per thousand.
In 2021, births had exceeded deaths by roughly 480,000.