China flag China: Economic outline

Economic Outline

Economic Indicators

For the latest updates on the key economic responses from governments to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the IMF's policy tracking platform Policy Responses to COVID-19.

China is the second largest global economy, the largest exporter and has the largest exchange reserves in the world. However, even though China has one of the fastest growing GDPs in the world, its economic growth was abruptly slowed to 2.3% in 2020, against 6% in 2019, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2019 context was already the result of a structural slowdown, as the economy moves away from an investment-led growth model and the government implements policies to reduce financial vulnerabilities. At the time, resilient external demand and robust domestic household consumption bolstered this growth, despite rising concerns about financial risks amid an economic restructuring led by the government. In 2021, growth came back strongly at 8%. New sectors like e-commerce and online financial services are gaining momentum in an economy dominated by export-oriented sectors. According to the IMF's October 2021 forecast, the GDP trend is expected to stabilise at 5.6% in 2022 and 5.3% in 2023.

By the end of 2021, inflation reached 1.1% and it should stabilise at 1.8% and 1.9% in 2022 and 2023 (IMF, October 2021). Public debt is a reason for concern in China. Although the official figure for 2021 was 68.9%, the real number is thought to be much higher and is expected to rise in coming years. According to a report published by the Institute of International Finance, the total stock of corporate, household and government debt in the nation now exceeds 303% of gross domestic product and accounts for about 15% of all global debt. Lately, the government has been targeting spending cuts in its budget and President Xi Jinping has said that curbing loans to bloated state-owned enterprises is “the priority of priorities". Nonetheless, the IMF anticipates an increase in the government debt in the future, reaching 72.1% in 2022 and 74.5% in 2023. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, government budget balance reached a record low of -9.5% of GDP in 2020 compared to -5.9% the previous year, but then came back to 6.9% in 202, a trend that is expected to remain in 2022 and 2023, when it's estimated to remain at -6.5% and -6%, respectively. On the other hand, China still has large reserves of foreign currencies, estimated by the Chinese Official reserve assets at USD 3.2 trillion in January 2022, which could serve as a buffer to external sovereign volatility, together with a current account surplus of an estimated USD 275.7 billion in 2022 (IMF, October 2021). Consumption is still to recover from the hit caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. Even though sales of luxury goods are booming and box office revenues have reached new highs, the lack of a recovery in employment and falling household incomes mean that prospects for a full consumption recovery are not bright (OECD, 2021).

In 2022, the country’s most immediate challenge remains related to the economic, social and public health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, China has to face many challenges: an ageing population and shrinking workforce, the lack of openness of its political system and issues of competitiveness in an economy dependent on high capital spending and the expansion of credit. A large gap remains between the living standard of the cities and the countryside, between urban zones on the Chinese coast and the interior and western parts of the country, as well as between the urban middle classes and those who have not been able to profit from the growth of recent decades. These inequalities are becoming increasingly worrisome for both Chinese authorities and investors, hence Xi Jinping's vow to complete the eradication of rural poverty by 2020 followed by his speech the following year, stating that the "arduous task of eradicating extreme poverty has been fulfilled" (BBC News, February 2021), even though the national benchmark used by the Chinese government is slightly higher than the USD 1.90 a day poverty line used by the World Bank to look at poverty globally.

According to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Security Yin Weimin, the low unemployment rate of these past years is largely due to the new digital economy and entrepreneurship. Many analysts say, however, that the government figure is an unreliable indicator of national employment levels, as it takes into account only employment in urban areas and does not measure the millions of migrant workers that arrive in the country every year. Despite the global context, the unemployment rate slightly decreased from 4.2% in 2020 to 3.8% in 2021. The IMF expects the rate to return to pre-pandemic levels of 3.7% in 2022 and 3.6% in 2023.

Main Indicators 202020212022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)
GDP (billions USD) 14.0017.00e20.0021.0023.00
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 2.28.1e3.24.44.5
GDP per Capita (USD) 10e12e141516
General Government Balance (in % of GDP) -8.1-5.5e-8.0-6.5-6.9
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 68.171.5e76.984.189.8
Inflation Rate (%)
Unemployment Rate (% of the Labour Force) 4.24.0e4.24.13.9
Current Account (billions USD) 248.84317.30329.59279.29249.78
Current Account (in % of GDP)

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database, 2016

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
Chinese Yuan (Renminbi) (CNY) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 GBP 8.978.708.838.638.85

Source: World Bank, 2015


Return to top

Any Comment About This Content? Report It to Us.


© Export Entreprises SA, All Rights Reserved.
Latest Update: January 2023

Return to top