China to further unleash consumption in 2019: official

By Wang Hailin from People’s Daily
With continuously optimized structure and better quality of consumption, China is already a major consumption country, Chinese Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan said on March 9, pledging a slew of measures to further encourage consumption in 2019.
His remarks also came after a narrowed growth rate in retail sales of consumer goods drew more global attention. China registered a total retail sale of 38.1 trillion yuan ($5.67 trillion) in 2018, with the year-on-year growth dropping 1.2 percentage points from a year ago to 9 percent.
Despite a narrowed growth rate in China’s total retail sales last year, the increment amounted to 3.2 trillion yuan, equivalent to the annual retail sales in 1998, Zhong told a news conference on the sidelines of the annual legislative session.
More importantly, the structure of China’s consumption has kept improving, the minister said, illustrating that consumption of services grew faster than that of goods, with its share rising to 49.5 percent last year.
The growth of rural consumption was 1.3 percentage points higher than that of urban consumption, he added.
The quality of consumption has been further improved, with personalized, diversified and customized consumption burgeoning, he said.
Stressing the greater weight of consumption to GDP, Zhong said that consumption contributed 76.2 percent to China’s economic growth last year, remaining the primary driver of economic growth.
He concluded that the growth of the total retail sales was in line with China’s current stage of development, and also met the requirements posed by a high-quality development.
China is about to further leverage consumption this year, Zhong vowed, expounding measures in unleashing the potential of both urban and rural consumption and promoting spending on services.
In order to upgrade consumption in urban areas, the country will update a number of pedestrian streets into platforms based on which the consumption can be better structured for high-quality growth, he said.
China will also optimize the layout of convenience stores, and encourage their brand development and franchising, the minister added, believing that such measures will reassure consumers by offering them more convenience.
It will also expand rural consumption by encouraging flow of agricultural products to the cities, and sale of industrial products in the countryside, said Zhong.
He elaborated that such measures will enable farmers to gain access to cost-effective industrial products, while facilitating the connection of urban and rural markets by introducing e-commerce platforms to countryside.
Online retail sales soared to 1.37 trillion yuan in rural areas in 2018, up 30.4 percent year on year.
The nation will also further stimulate service consumption by optimizing supply, said the minister, who described service consumption as a new economic growth driver with some short boards.
Efforts will be made to tap the full potential of fronts driving growth of service consumption, according to him, elaborating that culture, tourism and sports have grown into key drivers, while customized services and online shopping are emerging ones with great possibility.

Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan receives an interview after the opening meeting of the second session of the 13th National People’s Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, , March 5, 2019. (Photo: People’s Daily Online)

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