Chinese Trade Surplus Hits Five Year Low as Imports Rise to Record High


Official data indicates that while China’s total foreign trade continued to tap record highs in 2018 its trade surplus dropped to it slowest level in five years.

Data released by the General Administration of Customs (GAC) on 14 January indicates that China’s total foreign trade was worth USD$4.62 trillion in 2018, for a YoY rise of 12.6%.

Exports were $2.48 trillion for YoY growth of 9.9%, while imports rose to their highest levels since 2011, with a 15.8% YoY increase to reach $2.14 trillion and breach the two trillion threshold for the first time.

China’s trade surplus was $351.76 billion, for a YoY contraction of 16.2% and the lowest reading since 2013.

China’s exports to the United States in 2018 were worth $478.4 billion, for YoY growth of 11.3%.

Trade with China’s three largest trading partners of the European Union, the United States and ASEAN, rose by 7.9%, 5.7% and 11.2% respectively, collectively accounting for 41.2% of all of China’s foreign trade.

Trade with Belt and Road participating nations was 8.37 trillion yuan, for an increase of 13.3%.

China’s trade with Russia in 2018 saw 24% YoY growth to reach 707.55 billion yuan or USD$107.06 billion, marking the first time that the reading has exceeded the 100 billion yuan threshold.

Sino-Russian trade accounted for 2.3% of China’s total foreign trade, with Chinese exports to Russia rising 9.1% to reach 316.65 billion yuan, and imports from Russia rising 39.4% YoY to reach 390.9 billion yuan.

In the fourth quarter of 2018 China’s foreign trade saw an 8.8% increase, easing back from the growth rate for the third quarter. China’s foreign trade levels for the four quarter of 2018 were 6.76 trillion yuan, 7.36 trillion yuan, 8.18 trillion yuan and 8.21 trillion yuan respectively.

GAC official Li Kuiwen (李魁文) pointed out that China’s total foreign trade first breached the 10 trillion yuan threshold in 2005, before surpassing 20 trillion yuan in 2010, and exceeding 30 trillion yuan in 2018, after rising 2.7 trillion yuan compared to 2018.

Private enterprise saw a rise in its share of Chinese foreign trade, with growth of 12.9% to reach 12.1 trillion yuan, accounting for 39.7% of China’s total foreign trade, and a 1.1 percentage point rise compared to 2017.

Exports by Chinese private enterprise rose 10.4% to reach 7.87 trillion yuan, accounting for 48% of the total, or a 1.4 percentage point increase.

Imports by Chinese private enterprise rose 18.1% YoY to reach 4.23 trillion yuan, making a 50% contributing to the growth in foreign trade by private enterprise.