BOFIT Viikkokatsaus / BOFIT Weekly 2017/08

Preliminary balance-of-payments figures show China's goods trade surplus last year was $485 billion (4.3 % of GDP). The value of goods exports was $1.989 trillion and imports $1.504 trillion. The value of exports contracted more than the value of imports, causing the goods trade surplus to shrink from the previous year. The value of services trade also fell from the previous year. The value of China's services exports last year amounted to $282 billion, while services imports were worth $525 billion. Thus, the services trade deficit increased to $242 billion, of which the deficit in travel services alone hit $223 billion (2 % of GDP). The total current account surplus fell to $210 billion (1.9 % of GDP).

China's balance-of-payments figures showed that Chinese travellers abroad spent $341 billion last year. Measured in yuan, travel spending rose 25 % y-o-y. Foreign travellers spent $118 billion in China last year. According to China's National Tourism Administration, Chinese tourists made 122 million trips abroad, 4 % more than in 2015. Spending on tourism has increased much faster than the number of tourists. Balance-of-payments figures show spending on tourism last year was nearly triple compared to 2013, while the volume of tourism increased by 25 %. Statistics suggest that the Chinese tend to be bigger spenders abroad than other nationalities. Some suspect, however, that part of phenomenal growth in tourism spending actually reflects capital outflows that are improperly recorded as tourism imports.

China's main current account categories, 2009–2016 (% of GDP)

Sources: Macrobond and BOFIT.