As China Media Hails Superior Recovery, Americans Pessimistic About Economy

Chinese state media has praised the country's quick economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, after Beijing announced better than expected growth figures for the second quarter of the year.

China's GDP grew 3.2 percent in the second quarter of 2020, the regime reported Thursday following a record contraction in the first quarter of the year.

The figure means China escaped the official definition of a recession, two consecutive quarters of negative growth, despite the economic disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic.

By contrast, the U.S. economy entered a recession earlier this year. President Donald Trump's administration appears unable to get a handle on the coronavirus pandemic, meaning the economic hardship caused by the virus will likely persist for some time to come.

China—where the virus originated in the central city of Wuhan at the end of 2019—brought its own outbreak under control relatively quickly, using draconian restrictions on citizens to slow the spread. Beijing has, however, been accused of underreporting its figures and failing to adequately warn the international community of the threat posed by COVID-19.

Global Times, a nationalistic newspaper run by the Chinese Communist Party, cited this week's growth figure as evidence that Beijing had handled the pandemic better than the U.S.

A Global Times editorial published Thursday declared China's GDP growth as "definitely one of the best in the world," achieved despite restrictions as part of the national epidemic response.

"That was totally a different story from the U.S.," the newspaper said, "which forcibly reopened [the] economy regardless of the actual condition, and thus lost control of the epidemic."

"China's relatively quick recovery provided precious impetus to the gloomy world economy," the editorial read. "We hope Washington does not get jealous with China's achievement, but instead learn from China's strong points to offset its own weakness."

Observers have questioned the validity of reported Chinese economic figures, noting that local authorities will be under pressure from Beijing to submit favorable figures, even if they are not necessarily accurate.

For example, a study published by the Brookings Institution think tank last year suggested that Chinese GDP growth may actually be 1.7 percent lower than reported between 2008 and 2016.

Global Times and other state newspapers have been at the front of Chinese propaganda and disinformation efforts, both before and since the outbreak of the pandemic. China has used its media organs to try and dodge blame for the pandemic while maligning democratic rivals, particularly the U.S.

In Thursday's editorial, Global Times condemned what it called America's "almost hysterical strategic suppression of China," and suggested Beijing must fight back by sustaining "our performance, which is far better than that of the U.S., in the protracted epidemic fight, to crush the hooligan acts of the US.

The newspaper also said that the U.S. "will continue to perform worse than China in the third quarter" economically, a view not necessarily shared by leading U.S. economists.

Goldman Sachs, for example, said last month U.S. GDP could grow as much as 33 percent in the third quarter, while Morgan Stanley predicted just over 20 percent.

But with the Federal Reserve predicting annual shrinkage of 6.5 percent, the U.S. economy has a long road back to sustained growth, which the Fed predicted would only happen from 2021 onward.

A survey published Friday by the British YouGov organization suggested that American respondents share this economic pessimism. It found that 47 percent of Americans surveyed believe that the U.S. will be in a depression or full on recession this time next year. Twenty percent believed that the economy would be in growth.

Thirty percent of Chinese respondents believed the national economy will be in a depression or recession in July 2021. Fifty percent thought the economy would be stable, but only 12 percent believed it would be in growth.

US, economy, China, coronavirus, recovery
A man lies on a bench outside the New York Stock Exchange on July 13, 2020 at Wall Street in New York City. JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images/Getty