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Why This Chinese Downturn Is Different

China’s largest city has spent most of the past two months in a state of suspended animation. It is no surprise that the economy has been hit hard. What is surprising is the lack of a clear, credible plan to turn things around—other than more of the same.

China’s major April economic figures, released Monday, were sobering enough. Retail sales fell by 11.1% year over year—nearly as sharply as in March 2020 during the initial post-outbreak lockdown that essentially shut China down in the early spring. Investment and industrial growth also weakened, though less dramatically, with the latter falling 2.9%, compared with 5% growth in March.