China’s regional GDP growth figures for 2022 offer a lot to reflect on after a difficult year, but with the country open again, there is much to look forward to in 2023, writes Tom Simpson
China’s economy grew by 3% in 2022 according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics, with H2 activity improving on the 2.5% growth in H1. While much higher than the figure recorded by the UK, this growth rate marks one of China’s worst annual performances in nearly half a century.
At the regional level, the GDP figures generally reflect the degree of impact of the zero covid policy (now a thing of the past) on each region, in addition to other factors including exports and real estate.
Beijing grew by 0.7% after experiencing heavy disruption from zero covid. Restrictions tightened ahead of the 20th Party Congress in October and then tightened further as the virus spread in November.
Shanghai’s economy contracted by -0.2% for the year, reflecting the severity of the lockdown from March to June. The city’s GDP fell by -13.7% in Q2 with Q3-4 activity failing to recover the drop.
Former heavy industry giant Jilin fared worse, contracting by -1.9% after also experiencing heavy disruption from zero covid in early 2022. Jilin’s GDP was also ultimately unable to recover from the -7.9% contraction in Q1.
However, things were not all doom and gloom. Shandong (3.9%), Fujian (4.7%) and Jiangxi (4.7%), three provinces which avoided the worst of zero covid disruption, grew significantly above the national average. These provinces perhaps give an indication of the levels of growth we can expect in 2023 (the IMF is currently predicting the Chinese economy will grow by 5.2% in 2023).
Two of China’s biggest provincial economies, Guangdong and Jiangsu, grew by 1.9% and 2.8%, respectively. These figures were significantly lower than in 2021 when growth was 8% for Guangdong and 8.6% in Jiangsu around or above the national average of 8.1%.
Jiangsu was directly impacted by the Shanghai lockdown (as was much of East China) with GDP contracting in Q2 by -1.1%. However, growth was able to recover back to within the range of the national average.
Guangdong, which has remained China’s largest province by total GDP for the last 34 years, experienced sporadic lockdowns throughout 2022, with Shenzhen experiencing lockdown in H1 and Guangzhou in H2.
Hainan (0.2%) and Tibet (1.1%), two of China’s smallest provinces in GDP terms but biggest tourist destinations, were hit by lower visitor numbers due to the wider zero covid impact on domestic travel. Hainan has also seen real estate prices fall by some of the highest levels in China.