Forget fears, economy is alive and kicking
THE 6.9 percent growth was within people's expectations, given the increased downturn pressure on China's economy as revealed by fluctuating macroeconomic data last year. The growth, however, was also beyond expectations because some predictions put it at an even lower level, which was indicated by the positive stock market response after the data were released. Although last year China's growth rate slipped below 7 percent for the first time in a quarter century, it was within the parameters set by the Chinese authorities. Premier Li Keqiang has said that instead of obstinately trying to maintain a very high growth rate, China will see to it that the economy grows reasonably well. Because of the huge size of China's economy, the additional output from the 6.9 percent growth is equivalent to that of a middle-sized economy and higher than the additional value produced by the two-digit growth rate of previous years. That's why despite aiming for a high growth rate, we should also realize that with China's economy having already expanded considerably, it is natural for growth to register a gradual decline.
A simple comparison of growth rates during different periods could lead to fallacious conclusions. For a $2-trillion-plus economy, a 2.5 percent growth rate is considered high. So a 6.9 percent growth for the about $10-trillion Chinese economy should be considered very high. This is to say that people should not rack their brains over a little higher or lower than 7 percent growth and, instead, welcome a moderate economic growth as China enters the "new normal" stage. After three decades of fast-paced growth, China today is quite different from what it was in the 1990s in its economic fundamentals, development model, industrial landscape and driving force. The national economy, too, has undergone notable changes both in terms of quantity and quality. It's time, therefore, for China to focus on economic governance instead of blindly pursuing a high growth rate.
Despite being the lowest in 25 years, China's 6.9 percent growth in 2015 should not come as a surprise, because it has decelerated gradually rather than abruptly. The decline from 7.0 percent in the first quarter of 2015 to 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter was very moderate. Also, no drastic changes have occurred in China's economic environment and it still maintains a dynamic balance between upward growth and downturn pressures. And since either of the two factors can overpower the other, it is normal for China's economy to experience short-term fluctuations. Besides, the 6.9 percent growth basically met the 7 percent or so official target for last year. Considering its colossal economic size, the growth rate is more than satisfactory for China, especially because of the harsh global economic environment.
More importantly, the increase of the tertiary sector's share to more than 50 percent of China's GDP augurs well for an economy undergoing transformation and upgrading. With consumption replacing exports and investment as a main driver of the economy, it has become clear that China can wean itself from the investment- and export-driven economic model and further tap into the vast domestic consumption potential. Since the 6.9 percent growth for 2015 was made public, pessimistic opinions have flooded the Internet with comments such as "a 25-year low for China's GDP", "China's economic transformation only looks beautiful", "a precipice-style growth fall". But most of them talk only about the problems while ignoring the "bright side" of China's economy. True, the "list of merits" recently published by the authorities indicates China has not done very well in every aspect, as reflected by its declining GDP trajectory, soft investment, sagging profits of enterprises and increased deflation pressures. But we cannot ignore the silver linings - for example, the service sector accounting for 50.5 percent of the GDP. A rising share of the sector means declining energy consumption per unit of GDP - and the reason why we should not make a fuss over the decline in China's power use. The 66.4 percent that consumption contributed to China's GDP growth in 2015, an increase of 15.4 percentage points year-on-year, is also a laudable performance. Those viewing China's economic performance through tinted glasses cannot make a correct reading of the Chinese economy.