China's economy expanded 8.1 percent year-on-year with major indicators reaching the expected targets, showcasing its strong resilience and vitality despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials and experts said on Monday.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the country's gross domestic product reached 114.4 trillion yuan ($18 trillion) in 2021 with an increase of about 13 trillion yuan, or $2 trillion, which is equivalent to the GDP of a major economy like Italy or Canada.
"China, the world's second-largest economy, is expected to account for more than 18 percent of the global economy in 2021," Ning Jizhe, head of the bureau, said at a news conference in Beijing.
"It is estimated that the contribution of China's economic growth to the world economy is expected to reach about 25 percent in 2021, playing a key role in supporting the global economic recovery."
The country's per capita GDP stood at $12,551 last year, approaching the World Bank's threshold for a high-income country, Ning added.
Ning also warned that China is now facing pressures from shrinking demand, a supply shock and weakening expectations, saying that more efforts should be made to ensure the economy performs within a reasonable range.
Looking at the year ahead, he said that China has the capabilities to pursue progress while ensuring stability, fueled by the government's effective measures to prevent and control COVID-19, China's complete industrial supply system, the ultra-large domestic market and manifold policy tools.
"We have the confidence, capabilities and conditions to achieve sustainable and healthy economic development (this year)," Ning added.
"The GDP growth of 4 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter and 8.1 percent in 2021 as a whole came in a bit higher than what we've expected, amid stronger-than-expected industrial production in December," said Tommy Wu, lead China economist at British think tank Oxford Economics, who highlighted that economic stability is the top focus in 2022.
"Downward pressure on growth will persist in 2022," he added.
Wu said he expected to see macro easing measures to support economic growth.
"We expect front-loaded policy support in the first half to prevent growth from falling significantly below 5 percent in 2022. This includes the one-year medium-term lending facility rate cut today. More generally, we expect strong infrastructure spending, robust credit growth and adequate support for the real estate sector this year," Wu said.
Bai Wenxi, chief economist at IPG China, said the Chinese economy has maintained substantial growth, especially as the nation's exports surged significantly.
Facing a complicated and grim external environment, Bai said the main focus should be to stabilize exports, expand domestic demand and ensure stable supplies.
Data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that China's imports and exports reached $6.05 trillion in 2021, setting a record that topped the previous high of $4 trillion in 2013.Exports rose 21.2 percent year-on-year, while imports expanded by 21.5 percent on a yearly basis.
Liang Si, a researcher at Bank of China, highlighted the strong performance of exports and innovation-driven development in 2021, saying that China's sustainable economic growth is expected to spearhead the country's high-quality development during the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) period.
According to the NBS, investment in 2021 in high-tech manufacturing increased by 22.2 percent year-on-year and in high-tech services it rose by 7.9 percent year-on-year.
Liang said various downside risks and uncertainties are clouding the economic outlook, such as disruption due to sporadic COVID outbreaks.
Citing the Central Economic Work Conference held last month, he highlighted the importance of combining cross-cyclical and countercyclical adjustments to stabilize the overall economy, saying that this will help stabilize demand in the short term and foster long-term high-quality development.
The Chinese Academy of Sciences' Center for Forecasting Science estimated that China's economy is expected to grow around 5.5 percent in 2022.
It said that domestic consumption is expected to maintain sustained growth in 2022, with a year-on-year nominal growth rate of 5.4 to 7 percent, which will still be the main driving force of economic growth.