New energy vehicle sales up 37%, shows first half economic data

China’s imports of coal and oil grew rapidly in the first half of this year, but so did the production and sale of “new energy products”, official statistics show.

On 17 July, the National Bureau of Statistics released economic data for the first half of 2023, summarising the state of China’s economy as “recovery and improvement”. GDP in the first six months grew by 5.5% year-on-year.

A Xinhua analysis found that retail sales of consumer goods increased by 8.2% year-on-year, stimulating economic growth. The expansion of “green consumption” was specifically mentioned, including sales of new energy passenger vehicles, which exceeded 3 million, a year-on-year increase of 37.3%.

Fu Linghui, spokesperson for the National Bureau of Statistics, said the statistics show the achievement of China’s green transformation. The output of new energy products such as new energy vehicles, solar cells and electric vehicle charging piles increased by 35%, 54.5% and 53.1% respectively. Exports of products such as lithium batteries, solar cells and electric vehicles rose 61.6%.

Hu Hanzhou, director of the Energy Statistics Department of the National Bureau of Statistics, wrote in China Economic Net that energy production maintained stable growth in the first half of the year. Meanwhile, China imported 220 million tonnes of coal, an increase of 93.0% year-on-year, and 280 million tonnes of crude oil, up 11.7% year-on-year. Generation of thermal, nuclear, wind and solar power increased by 7.5%, 6.5%, 16.0% and 7.4% respectively; while hydropower decreased by 22.9%. Total energy consumption grew by 5.1% year-on-year.

“Overall, the economic operation is gradually getting rid of the impact of the epidemic… The recovery of economic growth is relatively obvious,” said Fu Linghui. Guangming Daily, a party-affiliated newspaper, said that China’s economic growth rate is significantly faster than the world’s major developed economies, and China’s economy has shown “strong resilience and vitality.”

However, a Financial Times analysis interpreted the statistics differently. China’s GDP grew by only 0.8% in the second quarter against the previous three months, with the loss of momentum mainly down to “falling exports, weak retail sales and a moribund property sector.” The article did acknowledge positives, including that “Industrial output in the renewables sector also rose, with electric vehicles sales up 35% year on year in the first half.”