China is reaping the economic benefits of its COVID-19 policies

China factory worker is back on the job
(Image credit: STR/AFP via Getty Images)

China reported Monday that its gross domestic product expanded by 4.9 percent in the third quarter compared with a year earlier, putting the country on track for economic growth of between 1.9 percent and 2.5 percent in 2020. The U.S., meanwhile, will see its economy shrink by 4.3 percent this year, while European nations will contract by 8.3 percent, according to International Monetary Fund projections.

China, like most of the world, saw its economy contract sharply in the second quarter, due to the COVID-19 pandemic that started in Wuhan. "But since then, China has staged a dramatic economic recovery due to extensive, mandatory testing and quarantine policies," NPR reports. "Daily new cases of the coronavirus have dropped to single digits. Subsequent outbreaks were contained by strict, city-by-city lockdowns that have allowed the national economy to continue operating even as some regions were temporarily sealed off."

Beijing paved the way for a return to economic growth "in roughly three stages," The Wall Street Journal reports: Shutting down its economy from January through March, firing up its factories starting in April, and — "having almost entirely stamped out the coronavirus within its borders — encouraging consumers to begin venturing outside of their homes and opening up their wallets." This resumption of manufacturing has increased China's share of global exports and economic influence, and has widened its trade surplus with the U.S.

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Because consumption is still soft in China and other countries, the country is now making more goods than people are able or willing to buy. Economists will be watching China's inventories for signs that its economic expansion is sustainable.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.