A resident shops for vegetables at a supermarket in Nanjing, east China's Jiangsu Province, April 11, 2022. (Photo by Du Yi/Xinhua)
BEIJING, April 22 (Xinhua) -- By global comparisons, China's modest inflation has allowed leeway for policymakers to support growth, but the colliding impacts of geopolitical conflicts and the resurgence of COVID-19 cases at home are complicating the government's balancing act.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) earlier this week slashed its global growth forecast for 2022 to 3.6 percent amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict, warning that inflation has become "a clear and present danger" for many countries.
In the United States and some European countries, inflation has reached its highest level in more than 40 years. Many central banks, including the U.S. Federal Reserve, have already moved toward tightening monetary policy.
Conflict-related disruptions "amplify those pressures," said IMF chief economist Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas. "We now project inflation will remain elevated for much longer."
Against the global backdrop of price surges, China's inflation has remained largely mild over the past years, though imported inflationary pressures are building.
Official data showed China's consumer price index (CPI), a main gauge of inflation, rose 1.5 percent year on year in March, higher than the 0.9-percent year-on-year growth recorded in February.
The producer price index (PPI), which measures costs for goods at the factory gate, remained elevated by rising 8.3 percent year on year in March as geopolitical and other factors pushed up the costs of international bulk commodities.
"The data showed intensifying imported inflationary pressure on China," said chief analyst at China Minsheng Bank Wen Bin, noting the narrowing gap between the PPI and CPI growth reflected that price rises are passing more quickly from upstream industries to downstream consumers.
Analysts largely believe annual inflation will tick up in 2022, but will only have a limited impact on the country's monetary policy as authorities seek more policy tools to more effectively support the growth of the real economy.
While gradually easing monetary policies by cutting banks' reserve requirement ratio and lending rates, more policies aimed at stabilizing prices are in the pipeline.
In a keynote speech delivered at a session organized by Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference on Friday, China's central bank governor Yi Gang reiterated that "price stability is our policy priority."
Grain production and energy supply are crucial for price stability this year. As long as grain production and energy supply remain stable, inflation will be kept within a reasonable range, Yi noted.
A State Council meeting on Wednesday stressed the importance of stable production and supply of grains and other important agricultural products, taking note of growing uncertainties in the international food market and high inflation in some countries.
The meeting also identified policy steps to ensure and increase the energy supply and continue to optimize the energy mix, as it is essential to address the new challenges in the external environment based on China's own national conditions and strengthen the energy supply with well-defined priorities.
Besides boosting supplies, China should also work to implement supporting policies such as tax cuts and fee reductions as soon as possible to ease the pressure on production caused by rising raw material prices, noted Sun Chuanwang, a professor of energy and economics at Xiamen University.
From a broader perspective, China's resilient economy, huge market potential and large policy toolbox will offer solid support for keeping prices stable, analysts predicted.