China economy 2023: Enhance growth under complex conditions

I'm Robert Lawrence Kuhn and here's what I'm watching: China's economy in 2023. This Watcher, the first of a five-part series, focuses on China's strategy for enhancing economic growth under complex conditions.

To put it simply: China is now focusing intensely on growth. While economic development has always been leadership's number one objective, other social goods, such as environmental protection and common prosperity, have become significant. It is not that these have become less important, or that President Xi Jinping is less committed to their long-term predominance, it is just that, given China's overall conditions, such as the economic impact of COVID disruptions and lockdowns, the slump in the real estate market, and the uncertainty of the global economy, delivering economic growth in 2023 now is the overwhelming, unambiguous primary objective.

This is no state secret. The priority of economic growth was made abundantly clear by the Central Economic Work Conference, the annual high-level meeting that was held in mid-December to consider the economic outlook and set policies for 2023. As expected, it followed the guidelines of the most recent Politburo meeting calling for more pro-growth and pro-business policies to get China's economy back on track and moving forward.

I see directives for stimulating GDP expansion via multiple factors. It starts with stabilizing the economy, then stresses expanding domestic demand and continuing high-quality opening up in trade and investment liberalization. It requires stronger coordination between qualitative and quantitative growth, between supply-side structural reform and domestic demand expansion, and between economic policies and other policies.

Key specific directives: (i) maintaining prudent monetary and enhancing proactive fiscal policy; (ii) promoting private business, especially tech platform companies, small and medium-sized enterprises, and foreign capital and companies; (iii) supporting the real estate market with pro-property policies; and (iv) reestablishing consumer confidence and increasing consumption. I focus on each of these directives in my next four Watchers.

Obviously, there is uncertainty and risk, and it is good that leadership is candid and cautious. The economy faces multiple pressures: weakening expectations, demand contraction, supply shock, COVID breakouts, and the turbulent global environment.

The consensus of global economists is that for 2023 China will aim for GDP growth of greater than 5 percent, perhaps as high as 5.5 percent, as the country returns to its potential growth rate sustainable over the medium term.

China's GDP now approaches 20 percent of the world GDP. This is why, with good reason, the world watches China's economy.

I'm keeping watch. I'm Robert Lawrence Kuhn.


Script: Robert Lawrence Kuhn

Editors: Yang Yutong, Hao Xinxin

Designer: Qi Haiming

Producer: Wang Ying

Supervisors: Ge Jing, Adam Zhu

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