China announced today that its economy grew in 2023 at a rate of 5.2%, which is among the weakest in the last three decades, if the period of the coronavirus pandemic is excluded.

Beijing had targeted growth at “around 5%” after GDP expanded 3% in 2022, a period in which a property crisis has ignited, consumption has been sluggish and uncertainties have hit its second-largest economy. world.

Because of its enormous political significance, although generally viewed with caution, the official GDP indicator is closely watched, given China’s special weight in the global economy.

A group of economists who responded to AFP questions yesterday Monday predicted exactly this size (5.2%), which was also confirmed by Chinese Premier Li Chiang yesterday Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

In 2022, GDP was reported to have expanded at a rate of 3%, despite draconian restrictions due to COVID-19, which weighed on economic activity.

After the measures are lifted, Beijing has set a growth target of “around 5%”.

Initially, the return to normality raised hopes for a rapid recovery.

But this much-anticipated recovery ran into a lack of household and business confidence, the main manifestation of which was lackluster consumption.

In December, retail sales, a key indicator of household spending, slowed (+7.4% year-on-year), despite registering a net acceleration in November (+10.1%).

Analysts polled by the Bloomberg news agency had predicted a slightly faster pace (+8%).

An unprecedented housing crisis, record youth unemployment and a global slowdown, however, appear to be putting the brakes on China’s growth engines.

For its part, industrial production accelerated slightly in December (+6.8% year-on-year), after rising 6.6% in November. Analysts polled by Bloomberg had expected a more subdued pace (+6.6%).

Regarding unemployment, it increased marginally in December (5.1%), from 5% in November. This index, however, only reveals part of the overall picture, as it only concerns city residents.

It therefore excludes millions of workers, so-called internal migrants, who live in rural areas and are particularly vulnerable to the slowdown in growth, their situation worsened by the real estate crisis.

This particular sector and related activities contribute over a quarter of China’s GDP and are a key source of employment.