Manufacturing sentiment in China was the worst among the world’s major economies in April, as the government refuses to budge from its zero-Covid policy and geopolitical tensions cloud the growth outlook. The state-affiliated China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing (CFLP) on Friday published a table of the manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) in 21 major economies for last month. Though China was not on the list, its April reading was worse than any of those countries that were – including Russia, which has been hit by Western sanctions following its invasion of Ukraine. China’s official manufacturing PMI fell to 47.4, from 49.5 in March, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, whereas Russia’s reading was 48.2. A reading above 50 indicates an expansion in production, while a reading below indicates contraction. “Impacted by sporadic and frequent outbreaks and international geopolitical clashes in April, Chinese manufacturing has faced downward pressure and a slower growth rate, dragging down the growth rate of Asia’s manufacturing sector,” said the CFLP in a statement on Friday. The April data has underscored slowing economic activity in China, the so-called factory of the world. In March, the country’s PMI was 49.5, ahead of Russia on 44.1 and Turkey on 49.4. Official PMI indicators showed that activity in both China’s manufacturing and services sectors last month fell to the lowest point in more than two years, once again putting the spotlight on the economic damage caused by Beijing’s zero-Covid policy. ‘Even more dependent’: China factories remain key to global supply chain Overseas economists are increasingly slashing forecasts for China’s 2022 economic growth, while the foreign business community has warned that draconian lockdown measures are making the country a less attractive destination for investment. Joerg Wuttke, the president of the European Chamber of Commerce in China, said on Thursday the predictability of the Chinese market, which was once a strength, had been thrown out the window. The Caixin/Markit manufacturing PMI, which surveys smaller, private businesses, also slumped to 46 in April, the lowest level in more than two years, placing China at the bottom of the Group of 20 (G20) rich nations. The Caixin services PMI last month also recorded its second-lowest reading ever at 36.2, marking the sharpest contraction among G20 nations in April. Small firms have been the most affected by the pandemic and corresponding restrictions. Despite growing concern about the economic toll of zero Covid, Beijing has sent a clear message it will be maintained. The central government pledged to fight any criticism that might “distort, question and challenge” the strategy, according to a statement after Thursday’s meeting of the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, the highest decision-making body in China led by President Xi Jinping. Unlike in previous meetings, the memo did not say authorities would work to “minimise the impact of the outbreaks on economic and social development”, nor reaffirm a commitment to strengthen vaccine development. “The economy was barely mentioned at the meeting, suggesting Beijing may have become more determined to maintain the zero-Covid strategy,” Lu Ting, chief China economist at Nomura, said on Friday. China posted better-than-expected economic growth of 4.8 per cent in the first quarter of the year. But six provincial-level jurisdictions – which make up a third of the Chinese economy – lagged behind the national average after being hard hit by the virus in the first three months of the year. That included Guangdong and Jiangsu, two of the country’s biggest provincial economies, as well as Shanghai , the country’s economic and financial centre that has been under lockdown for more than a month. The global manufacturing PMI dropped to 53.2 in April, down 0.9 points from the previous month and down 3.9 points from a year ago, according to the CFLP.