February’s exports rose at a record pace from a year earlier when the coronavirus hit the economy, customs data show.
Chinese export growth reached its highest level in more than two decades, official data showed, with imports also surging in a strong rebound after the coronavirus outbreak that all but brought activity to a halt.
Exports jumped 60.6% from a year earlier in the first two months of 2021, after factories reopened and global demand began to pick up after the coronavirus pandemic, the customs data. Exports hit $ 468.9 billion, accelerating from December’s 18.1% gain and nearly double the growth forecast by forecasters.
Exports of electronics and textiles such as masks have contributed to the surge in outbound shipments as demand for home work supplies and protective gear against the virus outbreak soared during the pandemic.
Imports jumped 22.2% to $ 365.6 billion, up from the 6.5% increase in December.
Chinese officials are combining trade data from the first two months to compensate for fluctuations due to the Lunar New Year holiday, which falls at different times each year in January or February. Factories close for up to two weeks, then restock after reopening.
Exporters took advantage of the relatively early reopening of China’s economy after the ruling Communist Party declared victory over the disease last March, as foreign competitors still face virus checks.
Forecasters believe the surge in Chinese exports is expected to slow as demand for masks and other medical supplies decline and foreign competitors return to global markets. Trade officials have warned that the global situation is still “grave and complex”.
Exports to the United States climbed 87.3% from a year ago to $ 80.5 billion in January and February, despite former President Donald Trump’s tariff hikes imposed in a fight for commerce, technology and security. They were left in place by his successor, Joe Biden, who took office in January.
Economists and political analysts expect little change under Biden amid widespread frustration in Washington with China’s trade and human rights record, and complaints of technology theft and espionage .
China’s chief economic official, Premier Li Keqiang, on Friday announced plans to accelerate technological development and reduce dependence on other countries.
This threatens to escalate tensions with Washington and Europe, which complain that Beijing is violating its promises of market opening by protecting its suppliers from competition.
The latest trade figures look particularly dramatic compared to early 2020, when the ruling party closed factories to fight the virus and trade plunged.
Then, world exports fell 17.2% in the first two months of 2020 compared to the previous year. Exports to the United States fell 27.7%.
Li has announced an economic growth target of “over 6%” this year, which should help propel foreign demand for oil, iron ore, food, consumer goods and other imports.
Beijing pledged to buy more US soybeans, natural gas and other exports in last January’s “phase one” deal to end the tariff war. Both sides have agreed to postpone further tariff increases, but penalties on billions of dollars of respective goods remain.
China has fallen behind in meeting these commitments, but has started to catch up as demand rebounded.
This year, China’s global trade surplus for January and February was $ 103.3 billion, compared to a deficit of $ 7.1 billion in the same period last year.
Imports of US goods rose 66.4% to $ 29.3 billion. China’s trade surplus with the United States narrowed 17.7% from the same period last year to $ 20.9 billion.
Exports to the 27 countries of the European Union rose 62.6% from January and February last year to reach $ 73.7 billion. Imports of European goods rose 32.5% to $ 45.9 billion.