China’s trade surplus surges to $676.4bn in 2021
January 15, 2022

Source: Inhouse illustration

One-liner: China’s politically volatile global trade surplus surged to $676.4bn in 2021, likely the highest ever for any country, as exports jumped 29.9% over a year earlier despite semiconductor shortages that disrupted manufacturing.

Dec exports swell: The country’s monthly trade surplus in Dec swelled 20.8% over a year earlier to a record $94.4bn, customs data showed Friday.

Monthly export surplus: China piled up a series of monthly export surpluses in 2021 but they prompted less criticism from the US and other trading partners than in earlier years while their govts focused on containing coronavirus infections.

Exports at $3.3tr in 2021: Exports rose to $3.3tr in 2021 despite shortages of processor chips for smartphones and other goods as global demand rebounded from the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Manufacturers also were hampered by power rationing in some areas to meet government efficiency targets

Exports to US rise 25%: The surplus with the US, one of the irritants behind a lingering US-Chinese trade war, rose 25.1% in 2021 over a year earlier to $396.6bn.

  • Trade envoys have talked since President Joe Biden took office in Jan but have yet to announce a date to resume face-to-face negotiations.

Tariff hikes: Exports to the US gained 27.5% over 2020 to $576.1bn despite tariff hikes by Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, that still are in place on many goods. Chinese imports of American goods rose 33.1% to $179.5bn.

Exports to US in Dec: In Dec, China’s monthly trade surplus with the US rose 31.1% over a year earlier to $39.2bn. Exports to the US market rose 21.1% to $56.4bn while imports of American goods edged up 3.3% to $17.1bn.

Exports may weaken: This month, China’s global export volumes are likely to weaken due to congestion at ports where anti-coronavirus restrictions are imposed and to changes in global demand as shippers clear backlogs, said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics.

  • “We’d still bet on export volumes being lower rather than higher by the end of this year,” said Evans-Pritchard in a report.

Imports up 30%: Chinese imports in 2021 rose 30.1% to $2.7tr as the world’s second-largest recovery rebounded from the pandemic.

Economic growth weakens: Economic growth weakened in the second half of the year as Beijing carried out a campaign to reduce what it sees as dangerously high debt in the real estate industry, but consumer spending was above pre-pandemic levels.

Manufacturing edges higher: Manufacturing activity edged higher in Dec but new export orders contracted, according to survey earlier by the govt statistics bureau and an industry group, the China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing.

Global trade surplus: China’s global trade surplus was a 26.4% increase over 2020, which economists said then was among the highest ever reported by any economy.

  • They said the only comparison as a percentage of the economy’s size likely was Saudi Arabia and other oil exporters during their price boom in the 1970s, but their total revenues were smaller

Trade surplus with EU: China’s trade surplus with the 27-nation European Union, its second-largest trading partner, swelled 57.4% in 2021 over a year earlier to $208.4bn. Exports to the EU rose 32.6% to $518.3bn while imports of European goods gained 19.8% to $309.9bn.

Dec exports to EU: In Dec, China’s trade surplus with Europe widened by 85.9% over a year earlier to $25.1bn