BEIJING — China’s economy expanded 4.8% from a year earlier in the first three months of the year, beating market expectations as the largest domestic COVID-19 outbreaks in two years disrupted business operations and dampened consumer spending.
The result, however, puts the economy on a trajectory that falls short of this year’s official target of expanding gross domestic product by 5.5%, a target that if attained would already mark the slowest annual expansion in more than a quarter-century. The outlook for the second quarter appears similarly bleak, economists say.
Economists had anticipated GDP to expand by 4.6% in the first quarter, accelerating from the 4% year-on-year economic growth recorded in the final quarter of 2021.
The Chinese economy has come under intense downward pressure after an outbreak of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus prompted authorities in Shenzhen and then Shanghai to impose draconian lockdowns and quarantine measures on its citizens.
The severe, weekslong lockdown in Shanghai, in particular, has prompted several economists to cut growth forecasts for the Chinese economy this year.
China’s National Bureau of Statistics said GDP expanded 1.3% when compared to the fourth quarter of 2021, slowing from the 1.6% quarter-on-quarter increase in the previous quarter.
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