Wednesday Briefing: China’s Economy Grew Faster Than Expected


China’s National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday that the economy grew 1.6 percent in the first quarter over the previous three months, despite a severe real estate crisis and sluggish spending at home. When projected out for the entire year, the first-quarter data indicates that the economy was growing at an annual rate of about 6.6 percent. China had set a growth target of about 5 percent for the year, a goal that many economists viewed as ambitious.

The economic boost came from a familiar tactic: heavy investment in manufacturing, including a binge of new factories that have helped to propel sales around the world of solar panels, electric cars and other products.

“China may have found a way to blunt the effects of its housing market crisis,” my colleague Keith Bradsher told us, “but only if Beijing can persuade other countries to buy more manufactured goods than ever from China.”

Foreign countries and companies are concerned that a flood of Chinese shipments to distant markets may undermine their own manufacturing industries and lead to layoffs.

The Chinese government has encouraged families to spend more, but households are “unenthusiastic” about being the ones to consume this burst of manufactured goods, Keith said. Many Chinese households borrowed heavily to invest in apartments and are responding to falling home prices by cutting back their spending.

On a trip to China this week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz promoted his country’s business interests while raising concerns over Beijing’s surge of exports to Europe and its support for Russia.

The U.S. plans to impose new sanctions on Iran in the coming days to punish it for the attacks on Israel over the weekend, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said yesterday. While she didn’t elaborate on what form they would take, she suggested that the Biden administration was considering ways to further restrict Iranian oil exports, which are a major source of its government revenue.

The U.S. is also looking at ways to cut off Iran’s access to military components, which it uses to build weapons like the drones it deployed against Israel, according to a Treasury official.

Background: The U.S. has imposed extensive sanctions on Iran over the years as part of a broad effort to put pressure on its economy and prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Six jurors were selected yesterday to hear the case against Donald Trump in New York, the first criminal trial of a former American president. The selection process was expected to take perhaps two weeks or more, but the jurors were picked in short order after a midday break. Both sides must agree on 12 jurors, who will decide the case.

The process got off to a rocky start on Monday, as dozens of jurors were dismissed after an initial inquiry, at a failure rate that my colleague Alan Feuer called “surpassingly rare.” The wrangling underscored a key challenge: the difficulty of picking a jury in a city where the defendant is unpopular.

Could you be an impartial juror? See the questionnaire for Trump’s hush-money trial.

Feral cats take a heavy toll on wildlife. But they are especially a threat in Australia, which has no native feline species and is home to a menagerie of slow-to-reproduce, snack-size mammals. The solution? Smarter traps, sharpshooters and the “Felixer,” a machine that sprays toxic gel onto passing cats.

Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, the 21st century’s pre-eminent pop stars, have often been cast as competitors, if not rivals. They were first linked this way in 2009 when Kanye West interrupted Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards to support Beyoncé. The rivalry has been perpetuated since by armies of superfans.

In reality, they have been mutually supportive and have generally avoided each other when it comes to album releases. When Taylor Swift announced that her new album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” would come out April 19, Beyoncé said a week later that “Cowboy Carter” would be released March 29. It wasn’t the first time they have avoided a collision on the charts.


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