The value of Chinese exports grew in the third quarter by 24 % y-o-y. The value of exports for the first nine months of the year was USD 2.4 trillion, a 33 % y-o-y increase and up 32 % from the same period in pre-covid 2019.
The value of imports in 3Q21 was up by 27 % y-o-y. The value of imports in January-September grew to USD 1.96 trillion, a 32 % increase from the same period in 2020 and up by 29 % from the same period in 2019. The trade surplus in the first nine months hit USD 439 billion, a 35 % increase from the same period a year earlier and up 46 % from 2019.
Import prices have risen mostly due to the spike in commodity prices of recent months. Unit prices of imported goods in May-August were up by an average of 17 % y-o-y. Much of the increase in the value of imports reflected higher prices; import volumes were up in January-August only by 13 % y-o-y. Commodity import volumes continued to shrink. The volume of copper imports in the first nine months of the year were about 20 % lower than in the same period a year earlier. Imports of oil and coal fell by 7 %, and metal imports were off by 3 %. The trend in export prices has been considerably more modest. The y-o-y rise in the average unit price in May-August was less than 2.5 %. The volume of exports in the first eight months of the year was up by about 33 % y-o-y.
China’s export growth with its main trading partners continued across-the-board. Exports in the first nine months of the year to the United States grew in dollar terms by 33 % y-o-y, to the euro area by 32 % and to ASEAN countries by 30 %. Import trends have been more country-specific. Compared to the same 9-month period in 2020, imports from the US grew by 44 % in dollar terms, by 32 % from ASEAN countries and by 28 % from the euro area. Much of the high growth in US imports to China reflects recovery from the plunge in bilateral trade during the trade war. Compared to 2018 before the plunge, China’s imports from the United States have only increased by 7 % (compared to a rise of 41 % in imports from ASEAN countries and 22 % in imports from the euro area).
China’s exports to its main markets have generally risen; greater variation in country-specific import trends
Sources: China Customs and BOFIT.