The purchasing managers' index (PMI) for China's manufacturing sector stood at 35.7 in February, down from 50 in January, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Saturday.
A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while a reading below reflects contraction.
The painful decline resulted from the impact of the novel coronavirus outbreak, said NBS senior statistician Zhao Qinghe.
This data provide the first official snapshot of the state of the Chinese economy since the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic which has killed 3,000+ people in mainland China and infected about 90,000.
The results suggest a deepening struggle in an economy already hit by the trade war.