China exports surge in 2021 as global demand picks up

China's politically volatile global trade surplus surged to $676.4 billion in 2021, likely the highest ever recorded by any country, as exports jumped 29.9% over a year earlier despite semiconductor shortages that disrupted manufacturing

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Chinese exports surged in 2021 on solid global demand as countries reopened, official data showed Friday, bumping its overall trade surplus to a record high and supporting growth.

The world’s second-biggest economy saw a quick rebound from the coronavirus last year — after cases first surfaced in a central city in late 2019 — allowing factories to operate and feed the global appetite for electronics and medical supplies.

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What actually happened?

That led to a 29.9 percent spike in exports last year, helping push the annual trade surplus to $676 billion, customs data showed.

The surge came on the back of an uptick in shipments of mechanical and electronic products, customs spokesman Li Kuiwen said.

Although China “handed in a dazzling report card” in the face of challenges, Li told reporters Friday that the economy “faces triple pressures of demand contraction, supply shock and weakening expectations”.

Imports increased 30.1 percent last year

In December, exports rose largely in line with expectations — at 20.9 percent — while imports disappointed with 19.5 percent growth.

The December export figures “may reflect the Omicron damage to the global supply chain”, with export orders shifting to China from other countries, said Zhiwei Zhang, chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management.

“Currently, the strong exports may be the only driver helping China’s economy,” he added.

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China’s trade surplus with the United States widened 25 percent last year to $396.6 billion.

While a deal marking a ceasefire in the bruising trade war between Beijing and Washington expired this month, two years after it was signed, authorities have yet to confirm their next steps.


AFP with additional input by GVS

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