BEIJING – China’s economy grew 4.5% in the first quarter of the year, boosted by increased consumption and retail sales, after authorities abruptly abandoned the stringent “zero-COVID” strategy.

The growth in the world’s No. 2 economy from January to March compared to the same quarter last year outpaced the 2.9% growth in the previous quarter, according to official government data released Tuesday.

The growth comes amid a rebound in consumption, as people flocked to shopping malls and restaurants after harsh COVID-19 restrictions were removed.

In March, total retail sales of consumer goods went up by 10.6% year on year, and grew 7.1 percentage points compared to the first two months of the year.

Investors are expected to scrutinize China’s first-quarter economic data for indicators of recovery following years of harsh lockdowns and a crackdown on the industries such as technology and real estate.

Earlier this year, China’s government set this year’s economic growth target at “around 5%.” Last year’s growth in the economy fell to 3%, hampered by anti-virus controls that caused snap lockdowns and kept millions at home, sometimes for weeks on end.

On Monday, China’s central bank kept rates on its one-year policy loans unchanged. Last week, it had vowed to step up support for the economy and maintain ample liquidity to support growth.

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By Editor

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