Global economists agree China's COVID-19 battered economy returned to growth in the second quarter of this year but are unveiling widely differing estimates.

China's GDP growth decelerated by 6.8% in the first quarter due to the pandemic, which hit China first. China declared the pandemic almost under control in April and began to ease lockdowns that prevented employees from going back to work and consumers from shopping. The same can't be said for most of the rest of the world, however.

China will report on its Q2 GDP Thursday but economists worldwide are hazarding estimates as to this figure. Bloomberg economists forecast Q2 GDP growth at 2.5%, a fairly generous estimate. They concur a clear upturn in China's industrial production suggests the economy expanded in Q2 after cratering in Q1.

"Even so, weakness in private and external demand means the pace of growth is likely to be well below historical levels," they wrote. "Activity data for June are expected to show the recovery has withstood a the resurgence in COVID-19 cases in Beijing."

On the other hand, a panel of economists convened by Japan's Nikkei took a more sanguine view of China's Q2 growth. The economist's estimate China's economy likely expanded only 1.1% on average in Q2 due to the recovery in production and consumption. Estimates by economists in the panel varied widely. It ranged from negative 5.2% to positive 3.6%. Nikkei said 22 of 26 economists that answered this question projected growth. There will be no V-shaped rebound in Q2, however.

Tommy Wu, lead economist at Oxford Economics, forecast China's Q2 GDP growth at 1.5%. He expects China's economy to keep recovering from the second quarter onwards led by industrial production and investment.

The panel's average forecast of full-year 2020 growth stands at 1.6%, down from 3.3% in the previous survey in March. Some economists were even more pessimistic. Jian Chang, chief China economist at Barclays Asia Pacific believes China's GDP will sink as much as 1.2% in 2020. She cited "a potential further escalation in Sino-U.S. trade or financial tensions as a major downside risk for growth."

A huge downside risk beclouding third and fourth quarter growth is the real risk of a COVID-19 "second wave" engulfing China. Asked when they expect Chinese economic activity to return to normal, 32% of the Nikkei economists predicted this to occur by Q3. On the other hand, 41% forecast Q4. Only 14% said it normalized in Q2.