Staff members work on a engine production line in Weifang, Shandong province, on April 22, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

China’s manufacturing activities expanded at a slightly slower pace in April, as indicated by the purchasing managers’ index falling to 51.1 last month from 51.9 in March, National Bureau of Statistics data showed on Friday.

But the index still remained well within the expansion territory on a monthly basis, being above the 50-point benchmark that separates growth from contraction. The index has remained above 50 for 14 consecutive months.

The PMI for large businesses and medium-sized enterprises stood at 51.7 and 50.3, respectively, both having dipped from the March levels. The PMI for small firms was 50.8, up 0.4 percentage points from March.

“The PMI in April continued to expand on the base of an obvious rebound in March, and the level was higher than the indexes recorded in the same periods of 2019 and 2020. China’s economic operation continued to recover steadily,” said Zhao Qinghe, a senior statistician at the NBS.

The production sub-index stood at 52.2, down 1.7 percentage points from March, and the new order sub-index was 52, down 1.6 percentage points from March, showing a slower expansion of production and demand in the manufacturing sector.

The PMI for China’s non-manufacturing sector moderated to 54.9, down 1.4 percentage points from March.

In particular, the sub-indexes for business activities in rail transportation, air transportation and accommodation all came in at above 65, indicating rapid growth of business volume in the service sector.

“Expansion of the non-manufacturing sector continued to gather momentum. Chinese consumers are showing stronger willingness to spend as the COVID-19 pandemic is increasingly being brought under better control in the country,” Zhao said.

On another front, China will lower import tariffs on some primary steel products to accelerate the greener transformation and upgrading of the steel industry, at a time when the country has announced its aim to peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.

On Saturday, the country will begin applying a provisional zero import tax rate on pig iron, crude steel, recycled steel raw materials and ferrochrome, the Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council said in a statement on Wednesday.

China will raise export tariff to 25 percent on ferrosilicon, 20 percent on ferrochrome and 15 percent on high-purity pig iron.

Meanwhile, China is lifting the export tax rebate on 146 steel products beginning on Saturday, according to the statement.

Producing primary steel products will lead to relatively higher carbon emissions and pollution, an industry expert said.

“To levy zero tariffs on some imported primary steel products will help reduce the import costs and expand imports,” said Wang Guoqing, director of the Lange Steel Information Center.

“A higher export tariff and the removal of the export tax rebate will restrain exports of certain primary steel products, and help fulfill the supply and demand gap in the domestic market. It will help domestic producers to cut the output of crude steel and lead the industry to reduce total energy consumption,” Wang said.

“The policies have been an inevitable result of helping China achieve peak carbon emissions and guide the steel industry to greener development,” she said.