The Daily Telegraph

China delays key economic data as Xi tightens his grip on power

- By Eir Nolsoe

CHINA has unexpected­ly delayed key economic data scheduled to be published just as President Xi Jinping bids for another five years in power.

Third quarter economic data, including GDP figures, were due to be published today but have been delayed without explanatio­n.

It comes as the country’s leadership gathers in Beijing for the Communist Party’s 20th congress this week. President Xi is expected to be confirmed for a third term by the congress later this week, breaking with decades of tradition and making him China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.

The delayed economic figures were likely to have proved embarrassi­ng for Communist party officials as the report was expected to show China’s zerocovid policy and a crisis in the property sector continues to hobble growth.

President Xi redoubled his commitment to zero Covid at the opening of the Communist Party congress on Sunday despite its economic impact, saying it was the “people’s war to stop the spread of the virus”. China is the last of the world’s large economies to persevere with draconian Covid measures, which include sudden and strict lockdowns, travel restrictio­ns and mass testing. The policies have disrupted production.

The country is also battling a downturn in the property sector, which contribute­d around a quarter of its growth over the past decade.

The latest figures from August show house prices falling at the fastest annual pace in seven years, with developers struggling and some owners withholdin­g mortgage payments for unfinished homes. The first signs of trouble emerged when China’s second largest developer, Evergrande, warned it was close to running out of cash last year.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected China’s economy to increase by 3.3pc in the third quarter after close to zero growth in the previous three months. This would still be a low growth rate for the world’s second largest economy. Earlier this year China set a growth target of 5.5pc for 2022, which was its lowest annual target in 30 years.

The World Bank predicts China’s growth to lag far behind that of other developing East Asian and Pacific countries. While China led the recovery in the region last year, it is only forecast to grow by 2.8pc in 2022. This has been revised down from 4pc to 5pc in April. In contrast, neighbouri­ng economies will on average expand by 5.3pc. The National Bureau of Statistics is yet to announce when the third quarter data will be released or why they have been held back. It has also postponed the release of monthly economic indicators such as property and retail sales trends.

Zhao Chenxin, a senior official at the Communist party’s National Developmen­t and Reform Commission, said that the economy had rebounded “significan­tly” in the third quarter.

Nick Marro, lead for global trade at the Economist Intelligen­ce Unit, said delaying the data suggests “a really ugly third quarter”.

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