China’s Trade Surges in First Two Months of 2024, Beating Expectations

China’s trade performance in the first two months of 2024 exceeded market expectations, as the world’s second-largest economy continued to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. China’s exports and imports both grew at double-digit rates in January and February, reflecting strong domestic and global demand.

According to data released by China’s General Administration of Customs on Thursday, China’s exports rose by 18.4% year-on-year to $1.03 trillion in the first two months of 2024, while imports increased by 14.5% to $864.9 billion. The trade surplus widened by 47.3% to $164.1 billion.

The export growth was much higher than the 3.9% increase forecast by analysts surveyed by Wind, a Chinese financial data provider. It was also faster than the 7.1% growth recorded in the same period of 2023, when China’s trade was hit by the outbreak of the coronavirus.

The import growth was also above the 0.7% decrease predicted by the analysts, and higher than the 3.5% growth in the same period of 2023, when China’s domestic demand was weak due to the lockdown measures.

China’s Trade Drivers and Diversifiers

The strong trade performance was driven by several factors, such as the recovery of the global economy, the resilience of China’s industrial sector, the expansion of China’s domestic market, and the diversification of China’s trading partners.

China’s exports benefited from the rebound of the global demand, especially for medical supplies, electronics, and work-from-home products. China’s industrial production also remained robust, as China was able to control the spread of the virus and resume normal economic activities.

China’s imports reflected the growth of China’s domestic consumption, investment, and infrastructure, as China implemented stimulus measures and boosted public spending. China’s imports also showed the increasing demand for commodities, such as iron ore, copper, and crude oil, as well as agricultural products, such as soybeans, meat, and grains.

China’s trade also diversified in terms of its trading partners, as China increased its trade with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the European Union (EU), and the United Kingdom (UK), while reducing its trade with the United States (US) and Australia. China’s trade with ASEAN, the EU, and the UK grew by 20.5%, 17.8%, and 32.4%, respectively, while its trade with the US and Australia dropped by 3.9% and 19.8%, respectively.

China’s Trade Challenges and Outlook

Despite the impressive trade performance, China still faces some challenges and uncertainties in its trade outlook, such as the uneven recovery of the global economy, the persistent trade tensions with the US, the rising protectionism and nationalism in some countries, and the potential environmental and social costs of China’s trade expansion.

China’s trade growth may also slow down in the coming months, as the base effects fade, the domestic and foreign demand normalize, and the supply chain disruptions ease. China’s trade policy may also shift from boosting exports to balancing imports, as China aims to reduce its reliance on external markets and promote its domestic circulation.

However, China’s trade prospects remain positive, as China has the advantages of a large and diversified market, a strong and innovative industrial sector, a comprehensive and flexible trade network, and a proactive and pragmatic trade strategy. China’s trade is expected to maintain a steady and healthy growth in 2024, contributing to China’s economic and social development, as well as the global recovery and cooperation.

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