China exports surge in 2021 as global demand picks up

Workers wearing face masks following the Covid-19 outbreak load steel products for export to a cargo ship at a port in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, China May 27, 2020. — Reuters pic
Workers wearing face masks following the Covid-19 outbreak load steel products for export to a cargo ship at a port in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, China May 27, 2020. — Reuters pic

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BEIJING, Jan 14 — 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 global appetite for electronics and medical supplies.

That led to a 29.9 per cent spike in exports last year, helping push the annual trade surplus to US$676 billion (RM2.8 trillion), 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 per cent last year.

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

China’s trade surplus with the United States widened 25 per cent last year to US$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

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