China consolidated its singular bright spot in the world economy with better-than-expected gross domestic product figures for 2020. A last-quarter growth surge of 6.5 per cent in GDP resulted in whole-year growth of 2.3 per cent. That is a dramatic turnaround from the early part of the year, including a first-quarter contraction of 6.8 per cent, when the coronavirus epidemic resulted in shutdown of factories. Industrial production grew by 2.8 per cent last year after a 7.3 per cent surge year on year in December. Meanwhile other global economies continue to struggle with the pandemic and recession. The lesson to be learned is that the mainland’s strong recovery can be attributed to the fact that it was the first major economy to bring a massive outbreak of Covid-19 under control. That objective – whatever it takes – is the key to economic recovery, regardless of the social and economic dislocation and cost at the time. Without it, no matter what various governments are doing to spur recovery, it is unlikely to be effective. Premature relaxation of anti-infection measures, or resistance to imposition of the most rigorous and effective ones, therefore comes at a high price. China’s recovery means it will increasingly become the engine of growth at least this year and maybe the next, particularly for many Asian economies. As a result, the question of how to integrate economies will be critical for this part of the world if there is to be rapid post-Covid-19 economic recovery. With free-falling economies causing social and political problems around the world, politicians should refocus on forging such a recovery based on resolute control over contagion. China’s numbers look convincing because all other economies have underperformed. But its recovery still rests on shaky ground. It may have attracted a flow of manufacturing orders and “hot money” but, as Covid-19 generally is gradually brought under control, this can be expected to change. The country is also facing the risk of another Covid-19 outbreak following reports of more than 100 daily cases for a number of days. These may not sound much compared with infection numbers elsewhere but, given the nature of the disease, if they cannot be contained, China is far from being out of the woods. A feature of the latest GDP figures is the strength of China’s exports, as consumers in developed countries appear to have increased spending on goods at the expense of services. Chinese consumer spending in December, on the other hand, fell short of analysts’ forecasts, raising questions about consumer confidence.