Guangdong still No. 1, but slowing

Guangdong remains China’s largest provincial economy after it grew by 9.7 per cent from a year earlier to 8.8 trillion yuan (US$1.4 trillion) in the first nine months of the year. This was, though, slightly lower than the national average and sharply down from the 13.0 per cent growth rate seen in the first eight months of the year.

SCMP quoted the provincial government as putting a positive spin on the numbers: “Guangdong’s economy continued to recover steadily in the first three quarters, but it should also be noted that the external environment is still grim and complex, the problem of uneven economic recovery has further emerged, and the overall recovery momentum has slowed down”. SCMP

However, the numbers tell a different story. They show a sharp domestic slowdown in September. Foreign trade actually held up reasonably well. Fixed-asset investment and retail sales, on the other hand, weakened notably. The tourism sector was hit particularly hard by the ongoing small outbreaks of Covid-19, even though Guangdong itself has been mostly spared in the latest round, except for a small local outbreak on the border of Macau and Zhuhai in late September. Revenue growth in the accommodation and catering industry during the year to September fell to just 15.5% YoY, down 10 percentage points from the 25% recorded in the year to August.

Other sectors that recorded steep declines were transport and real estate, which slowed to half of their previous growth rates from the month before.

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