China’s gross domestic product rose 3.9 per cent in the third quarter, as part of a delayed data release that lays bare the scale of economic challenges facing the country.
The figures, originally set for publication last Tuesday, come days after Xi Jinping extended his rule for an unprecedented third term and tightened his grip over political power at China’s 20th party congress.
While the government provided no explanation for the delay, the move was widely seen as an attempt to avoid distracting from a once-in-five-year event which overhauled the upper echelons of the Communist Party.
The year-on-year growth rate, which was forecast to come in at 3.3 per cent according to analysts polled by Bloomberg, is far below China’s full-year target of 5.5 per cent — already its lowest in three decades.
The data release helped spur a broad sell-off in Chinese equities on Monday, with the Hang Seng China Enterprises index in Hong Kong falling as much as 3.2 per cent and the benchmark CSI 300 index of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed stocks down as much as 0.8 per cent.
China’s economy is grappling with a worsening property crisis and the impact of strict zero-Covid controls and lockdowns, which have largely curtailed the spread of the virus but have also crippled consumer activity.
At the congress, Xi made little reference to the country’s economic weaknesses and praised coronavirus control measures, which include almost-daily testing for citizens and quarantine rules that have effectively closed the country off from the rest of the world.
In the build-up to the event, China’s top epidemiologist said there was no timeline for a relaxation.