China’s export growth slowed to single digits in April, while imports were unchanged as tighter and wider COVID-19 curbs halted factory production, disrupted supply chains and triggered a collapse in domestic demand.

China’s Communist Party (CCP) has locked down tens of millions of people since the start of 2022 to contain the spread of the Omicron variant, severely impeding key economic sectors, including services and manufacturing.

The Purchasing Managers’ Index, a key metric that measures the health of the manufacturing sector, fell to 49.5 per cent in March and 47.4 per cent in April, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics. A reading below 50 indicates a contraction. In Shanghai, the most populous city, first-quarter retail sales fell 3.8 per cent compared with the previous year.

Exports in dollar terms grew 3.9 per cent in April from a year earlier, compared with 14.7 per cent growth in March.

China posted a trade surplus of $51.12bn in the month, versus a forecast for a $50.65bn surplus in the poll. The country reported a $47.38bn surplus in March.

Far from adjusting the draconian pandemic strategy, authorities have in recent days tightened restrictions in Shanghai and Beijing. More than 373 million people across 45 cities were under some form of lockdown as of mid-April, according to an analysis by Japan’s Nomura Holdings.

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