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In 2021, facing complex domestics and international landscapes and all kinds of risks and challenges, China has been in the lead position in both economic development and Covid-19 response through concerted efforts across China, keeping economic performance within an appropriate range. The major tasks and targets of 2021 were completed.

We have made new progress in building a new development paradigm and scored new achievements in high-quality development. The 14th Five-Year Plan was off to a good start. The achievements are mainly as follows.

First, China’s economic growth has been in the lead worldwide, with notably increased economic strength. China’s economic growth ranked among the top in major economies worldwide, with the GDP of 2021 growing by 8.1% year-on-year.

The GDP reached 114.4 trillion yuan, exceeding 110 trillion yuan. That was US$17.7 trillion at the yearly average exchange rate, which ranked second globally. The per capita GDP was 80,976 yuan and US$12,551, at the yearly average exchange rate exceeding US$12,000. At the end of 2021, China’s foreign exchange reserves stood at US$3.2502 trillion, the largest in the world.

Second, foreign trade and investment have grown rapidly, and opening up has been continuously expanded. As a result, the volume and quality of trade goods had increased. In 2021, China’s total goods imports and exports expanded 21.4% year-on-year to 39.1 trillion yuan, scoring a two-year average growth of 11.3%. Counted by US dollars, the trade volume was US$6.05 trillion, accounting for a larger proportion in the global market.

The imports and exports of general trade made up 61.6% of the total trade volume, up by 1.6 percentage points year-on-year. Trade in services has continued to recover. From January to November 2021, the total trade in services increased by 14.7% year-on-year, with services exports up by 31.5%. The investment attracted set a new record.

The actual utilized foreign capital in 2021 was 1.1494 trillion yuan, up by 14.9%.China has become the world’s second largest commodity consumer market, the world’s largest total trade in goods for five consecutive years, the world’s second largest absorber of foreign investment, and the world’s top foreign investor.

Third, efforts to ensure people’s livelihoods have been firm and effective, increasing people’s sense of fulfillment. As a result, people’s income has increased at a fast pace. In 2021, Chinese citizens’ net income from wages and salaries, net business income, and net property income grew by 9.6%, 11.0%, and 10.2%, respectively.

As a result, the urban-rural income gap has been narrowed. The urban-rural per capita disposable income ratio of 2021 was 2.5, which was 0.06 percentage points lower than 2020. The production and sales of basic consumption goods in 2021 have seen a steady growth.

The value-added by the consumer goods manufacturing industry above designated size increased by 9.8% year-on-year. The retail sales of grain, oil and foodstuff, beverages, and daily necessities by enterprises above designated size all registered a two-digit growth.

The investment to improve living standards has expanded. The investment in social sectors increased by 10.7% year-on-year. Specifically, education and public health investment grew by 11.7% and 24.5%, respectively. In 2021, 12.69 million urban jobs were added, meeting the expected target of more than 11 million.

The surveyed urban unemployment rate was 5.1%, lower than the target of around 5.5%. The consumption price rose mildly. The CPI in 2021 increased by 0.9% year-on-year, lower than the target of around 3%.

Fourth, the innovation momentum has been intensified, new industries and new forms of business thrived. In 2021, the national spending on R&D increased by 14.2%, 4 percentage points higher than the growth rate last year, maintaining a two-digit growth since the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020).

The spending on R&D accounted for 2.44% of the GDP, up 0.03 percentage points than last year. Specifically, the basic research spending grew by 15.6% year-on-year, accounting for 6.09% of the total R&D spending, up by 0.08 percentage points than last year.

The value added of high-tech manufacturing went up by 18.2% year on year. The new generation of information technology accelerated its penetration and integration into new consumption areas such as online shopping, mobile payment, and online-to-offline commerce.

Fifth, grain output reached a new high and production of animal husbandry grew steadily. The total output of grain in 2021 was 682.85 million metric tons, an increase of 13.36 million metric tons, or up by 2% over the previous year, a new high.

It has maintained above 600 million tons for seven consecutive years, laying a solid foundation for ensuring market supply and stabilizing prices. The total output of beef, mutton and poultry and so on in 2021 was 88.87 million metric tons, up by 16.3% over the previous year.

Sixth, China’s contribution to the world economy expanded. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), China is expected to account for about 18% of the global economy in 2021, representing a steady increase in successive years. Last year marked the eighth anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Since the BRI was put into action, the trade relationship between China and BRI-participating countries has been increasingly strengthened. Data from China’s customs showed that in 2021, China’s import and export to countries along the routes of BRI reached 11.6 trillion yuan, up 23.6%, 2.2 percentage points higher than the overall growth rate of China’s foreign trade in the same period. Of this, exports reached 6.59 trillion yuan, up 21.5%; imports totaled 5.01 trillion yuan, up 26.4%.

The year 2021 also marked the 20th anniversary of China’s accession to the WTO. Customs data showed that the total volume of China’s imports and exports increased from 4.22 trillion yuan in 2001 to 39.1 trillion yuan in 2021, up by an annual average rate of 12.2%.

On Jan 1, 2022, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement came into force in six ASEAN countries, namely Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, as well as China, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia, marking the start of the world’s largest free trade zone so far. China will contribute a lot to improving global economic governance and promoting economic globalization.

At the moment, the global recovery remains fragile and tortuous. Inflation, debt, energy and supply chain crises have become intertwined. In the face of the complex and severe economic situation, the fundamentals sustaining China’s long-term economic growth and the advantages of forming a new development paradigm remain unchanged, and new drivers of economic growth will continue to emerge.

Based on the new stage of development, China’s economy with full of resilience and great potential, and China will fully, accurately, and comprehensively implement the new vision of development, work hard and tirelessly to speed up the building of a new development paradigm.

China will work together with all countries, including Pakistan, to actively safeguard the stable and smooth functioning of global industrial and supply chains, pursue deeper and more substantive progress in high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, and contribute more energy to world economic recovery.

(The writer is Consul General of China in Karachi)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

Li Bijian

The writer is Consul General of China in Karachi

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