Satellite data show the degree of catastrophic blockade in China

Medical staff in hazmat suits in Shanghai after a new Covid-19 case in China in January 2021

Photo courtesy of: Shutterstock

China’s port activity fell below the levels seen during the first coronavirus outbreak in 2020, construction plummeted, satellite data show that official economic figures could worsen as Covid’s blockade spreads. Suggests.

Satellite imagery is becoming an important real-time data tool for measuring the impact of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in China since 2020. Official figures are released only once a month and are being scrutinized more and more, even though Beijing maintains an ambitious growth target of around 5.5%. Its Covid Zero approach has forced it to shut down major hubs like Shanghai.

New York-based SpaceKnow is tracking activity in more than 1,300 factories from space, and while inventory is rising, manufacturing output remains strong through the blockades in March and early April. Told. This could be a sign of logistics growls, as coronavirus restrictions have significantly disrupted and scarce trucks that can move goods to ports and across the country.

Data from SpaceKnow and Four Squares Technology Ltd., a Chinese company that tracks construction site activity from satellites, show a major slump in ports and construction. However, manufacturing and retail activities tracked via satellite imagery seem to support trends in official data to date.

Read more: The global supply chain crisis reignites where everything started

According to SpaceKnow, data show that production was below average for most of March, but factory production across the country was in line with normal seasonal patterns.

The situation is very different at Chinese ports, which have returned to the low levels seen during the 2020 blockade. According to SpaceKnow, inland waterway traffic refers to cargo transported by rivers, which is currently well below the January 2020 lows.

There are signs that the factory inventory is piled up. According to SpaceKnow, the flow of goods continues to grow in the export storage area, suggesting that cars for domestic consumption are piled up in distribution centers, suggesting that cars are manufactured but not sold.

Retail demand has fallen sharply since big cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen tightened regulations on March 13, but significantly less than was seen in the first virus outbreak in China in 2020. is. SpaceKnow is a shopping mall in China.

According to official data last week, retail sales in March fell 3.5% year-on-year, compared to a 15.8% plunge during the 2020 blockade.

Retail sales growth has been weak this year, and the driving force behind the Chinese economy is investment in infrastructure in particular. However, satellite data show that fixed asset investment in infrastructure in March increased by 12.5% ​​from a year ago, but the long-awaited investment stimulus did not materialize in March. It shows that.

Satellite images of Four Squares Technology show that construction activity has plummeted in March in one of China’s most economically important areas.

According to Four Squares, the new construction area of ​​China’s three major economic zones around the cities of Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing decreased by 57% year-on-year in March. In the belt around Shanghai, the area of ​​new construction decreased by 83% during the period.

Road construction is also proceeding smoothly, with construction of 8,759 kilometers (5,443 miles) in central and western China in March, a 10% year-on-year decrease.

This suggests that China has not been able to isolate the construction sector from the effects of the blockade. Data on the use of construction machinery by Japanese company Komatsu also suggested a decline in activity in March.

The discrepancy between official figures and high-frequency data has heightened skepticism about China’s economic statistics. Growth is an important performance indicator for senior government officials competing for promotion prior to the Communist Party Congress in the fall. As a result, you may be motivated to report strong data.

Read more: China’s surprisingly strong growth invites analysts’ skepticism

Logan Wright, Head of China Market Research at Rhodium Group, said: Despite real estate and Covid-related headwinds, the claim that China is growing rapidly this year could “danger” the long-term credibility of official data, he added.

(Correct the company location in the third paragraph.)

© 2022 Bloomberg LP Satellite data show the degree of catastrophic blockade in China

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