China’s exports surge at record pace from coronavirus-battered levels

China saw its trade booming in the first two months of the year, with exports rising more than 60 percent in January-February compared to 2020 lows, when the Covid-19 outbreak rattled the world’s second-largest economy.

Last month alone, outbound shipments spiked 154.9 percent year-on-year, marking a record monthly surge for Chinese exports. The sharp increase in exports, which was much higher than economists’ predictions, is partly explained by the low base from 2020, when exports fell over 17 percent as the government imposed lockdowns to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

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The surge in exports also came due to strong overseas demand for Chinese goods, with the US and Europe remaining the biggest destinations for Chinese shipments. According to China's General Administration of Customs, stimulus measures in major economies have also helped to elevate consumer demand for made-in-China products. 

Moreover, this year many Chinese firms stayed open during the traditionally long Lunar New Year holidays as workers were encouraged to stay at their workplaces instead of going to their hometowns. The customs agency said that this allowed exporters to deliver orders faster than usual for this period. 

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Imports also jumped in the January-February period, rising more than 22 percent compared with a year ago. Skyrocketing exports and growing imports allowed overall trade to rise over 41 percent in dollar terms and 32 percent in yuan terms in two months year-on-year. While that is compared to the low base of 2020, the growth was significant even when contrasted with pre-crisis years.

“Even when compared with normal years, such as the comparable periods in 2018 and 2019, growth in China’s overall trade was around 20 percent,” customs said.

Robust exports and imports have helped China to become the only major economy to see growth in 2020. The world’s second-largest economy expanded 2.3 percent last year, its weakest result in decades, but most of its global peers contracted or even fell into recession. Beijing has recently set a growth target for 2021, expecting its gross domestic product (GDP) to expand by six percent.

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