Economy of China's original virus epicenter down 39.2 percent in 1st quarter

Kyodo News

Posted at Apr 28 2020 10:05 PM

Visitors wearing face masks are seen at Wuhan Zoo on its first day of reopening following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Wuhan, Hubei province, China April 22, 2020. China Daily via Reuters

BEIJING - The economy of China's Hubei Province, the original epicenter of the new coronavirus outbreak, plunged 39.2 percent from a year earlier in the first quarter of 2020, official data showed Tuesday.

The economies of the country's biggest commercial hub Shanghai, and the capital Beijing, also shrank 6.7 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively, in a sign of just how quickly the spread of the virus stifled business activities in the world's second-largest economy.

China's overall economy marked its first quarterly decline on record during the January-March period, down 6.8 percent from the previous year, with industrial production dropping 8.4 percent and retail sales plummeting 19.0 percent.

The last time China's economy recorded a full year of economic contraction was 1976, the final year of the 10-year Cultural Revolution initiated by Mao Zedong that, observers say, left tens of millions of people dead.

The Chinese leadership of President Xi Jinping has pledged to implement economic stimulus measures to achieve a V-shaped recovery, as the number of new infections has been decreasing at home.

Some analysts, however, are skeptical about whether China's economy can rebound at a pace the Communist-led government expects, saying the possibility cannot be ruled out that a possible second wave of infections will exact an even heavier toll on domestic demand.

On April 8, the months-long lockdown imposed on Wuhan -- the capital city of Hubei Province located in the central part of the country -- was lifted. Many firms, including Japanese automakers, have restarted production at their factories there.

Wuhan is a business and transportation hub with a population of around 11 million.

But the numbers of virus patients who test positive without showing any symptoms, and imported cases have been rising recently, fanning fears about a possible second wave of infections in China.

The new coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19, was first detected in Wuhan late last year. It has so far infected more than 3 million people globally, with fatalities exceeding 200,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.