January 20, 2022

Chart of the Week: China’s bumper year for trade

by Fathom Consulting.

China smashed its previous records on external trade in 2021. Amid the strong global economic recovery, both goods exports and imports surged by 30%, to $3.4 trillion and $2.7 trillion respectively. The overall trade surplus on goods rose from $524bn in 2020 to $676bn in 2021, surpassing the previous high of $594bn in 2015. Despite ongoing tariffs, exports to the United States increased by 28% to $576bn and the trade surplus reached a new high at almost $400bn.

External trade has been a key support for the Chinese economy recently, as problems in the property sector and the country’s draconian zero-Covid strategy have weighed on growth. Net trade added 1.7 percentage points to annual GDP growth in 2021, up from 0.6 percentage points in 2020. A major switch back to spending on services from goods in advanced economies is an important downside risk for the Chinese economy in 2022.

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