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Chinese exports surged in 2021 on solid global demand

Chinese exports

For December, exports rose largely in line with expectations at 20.9 percent, though imports disappointed with 19.5 percent growth

Chinese exports surged in 2021 on solid global demand as countries reopened from pandemic lockdowns, data showed Friday, bumping its overall trade surplus to a new high and providing a much-needed boost to the stuttering economy, but officials warned of headwinds.

The world’s second-biggest economy saw a quick rebound from the coronavirus in the past two years 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 percent spike in exports last year, helping push the annual trade surplus to $676 billion, with customs spokesman Li Kuiwen saying the surge was fanned by an uptick in shipments of mechanical and electronic products. Imports increased 30.1 percent.

But while 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’.

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

Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics said in a note that higher prices helped boost exports.

Another factor helping overseas shipments was ‘relaxing social distancing measures in the US and the west in general’, ING economist Iris Pang told AFP.

December’s export figures could also ‘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 manufacturing sector has been hit by spot shutdowns around the country as Beijing pursues a strict zero-Covid strategy of lockdowns, mass testing and border closures to fight the spread of Omicron.

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