China’s gross domestic product grew 4.5% in the first quarter of the year, boosted by increased consumption and retail sales, after authorities abruptly abandoned the stringent “zero-COVID” strategy. 

The growth in the world’s No. 2 economy from January to March compared to the same period in 2022 was the fastest in the past year, and outpaced the 2.9% growth in the previous quarter, according to government data released Tuesday. 

The growth in GDP comes amid a rebound in consumption, as people flocked to shopping malls and restaurants after harsh COVID-19 restrictions were removed. 

In March, total retail sales of consumer goods went up by 10.6% year on year and grew 7.1 percentage points compared to the first two months of the year. 

Industrial production output, which measures activity in the manufacturing, mining and utilities sectors, grew by 3.9% in March compared to the same time last year. 

Fixed-asset investment — in which China invests in infrastructure and other projects to drive growth — rose by 5.1% in the first three months of 2023 compared to the same period last year. 

Investors are expected to scrutinize China’s first-quarter economic data for indicators of recovery following years of harsh lockdowns and a crackdown on the industries such as technology and real estate. 

Earlier this year, China’s government set this year’s economic growth target at “around 5%.” Last year’s growth in the economy fell to 3%, hampered by anti-virus controls that caused snap lockdowns and kept millions at home, sometimes for weeks on end. 

On Monday, China’s central bank kept rates on its one-year policy loans unchanged. Last week, it had vowed to step up support for the economy and maintain ample liquidity to support growth.  

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