More measures to spur consumption
Shoppers buy fruit at a supermarket in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province. [Jia Minjie/for China Daily]
China's consumer goods market is expected to maintain growth momentum this year, fueled by the rising per capita disposable incomes of Chinese residents and more supportive policies to shore up consumption in the pipeline, amid headwinds from external uncertainties and a resurgence in domestic COVID-19 cases, experts said.
They also said more prompt and effective measures like accelerating the integration of online and offline consumption, and encouraging the purchase of automobiles and home appliances, should be taken to further spur consumption and unleash consumers' purchasing power.
The National Bureau of Statistics said on Monday that total retail sales of consumer goods, a vital consumption indicator, reached 3.4 trillion yuan ($533.5 billion) in March, down by 3.5 percent year-on-year.
In the first quarter, the indicator stood at 10.9 trillion yuan, up 3.3 percent year-on-year, while the online retail sales rose by 6.6 percent year-on-year to 3 trillion yuan during the January-March period, the NBS said.
"China's consumer market is expected to continue its recovery. Although the growth of consumption has been dampened by the latest resurgence of COVID-19 cases in some major cities, its recovery momentum will not change," said Fu Linghui, a spokesman of the NBS, at a news conference in Beijing.
Fu noted consumption has served as the bedrock for China's stable economic growth, and the final consumption expenditure contributed 69.4 percent to the country's economic growth in the first quarter, driving GDP growth by 3.3 percentage points.
According to him, residents' purchasing power and willingness to spend will be lifted as the COVID-19 outbreak increasingly comes under better control and the government's continuous efforts to stabilize and expand employment bear fruit.
Meanwhile, the country will actively promote the consumption of new energy vehicles as well as green and smart home appliances, bolster the in-depth integration of online and offline consumption, foster new forms and models of consumption, and stimulate consumption in townships and rural areas, Fu said.
"Consumption plays a fundamental role in China's economic development and is the main driving force boosting economic growth," said Wang Yun, a researcher with the Academy of Macroeconomic Research.
The recovery of consumption is facing mounting challenges and difficulties amid the resurgent domestic COVID-19 cases, Wang said.
More efforts are needed to unleash the consumption potential in automobiles and ease restrictions on home purchases so as to promote the recovery of consumption and stabilize economic growth, Wang said.
China will roll out measures to boost consumption, as part of efforts to keep economic fundamentals stable to ensure and improve people's livelihoods, according to an executive meeting of the State Council, China's Cabinet, held last week.
The meeting noted that consumption in the services sector, such as medical, health, elderly and child care, should be propelled, and spending on home appliances, automobiles, and other big-ticket items will be encouraged.
Zhao Ping, deputy head of the Beijing-based Academy of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, said the growth rate of per capita consumption expenditure is higher than that of per capita disposable income in the first quarter, which means consumer purchasing power and willingness to buy has seen rapid growth and laid a solid foundation for the recovery and growth of consumption.
Zhao called for more efforts to encourage enterprises to leverage new-generation information technologies like big data, cloud computing and artificial intelligence to create new types of green and intelligent consumer goods, and cultivate new consumption growth points.