After being the first country affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, China has since become the first major economy to resume most of its business activity. The world’s second biggest economy saw a growth of 4,9% between July and September, compared to the same quarter last year.
China is now leading the charge for a global recovery based on its latest gross domestic product (GDP) data. This 4,9% growth is a far cry from the slump the Chinese economy suffered at the start of 2020 when the pandemic first emerged: for the first three months of this year China’s economy shrank by 6,8% when it saw nationwide shutdowns of factories and manufacturing plants. It was the first time China’s economy contracted since it started recording quarterly figures back in 1992.
In September China’s imports surged 13,2% in dollars, according to official customs data and exports rose 9,9% compared to a year ago. In the July–September quarter, China’s exports rose 10,2% from a year ago (US$742,9 billion) and imports rose 4,3% (US$576 billion).
The Chinese trade surplus with the U.S. — that has been at the centre of the Sino-American tariff war during the Trump administration — narrowed to US$30,75 billion in September (US$3,5 billion lower than August). The year-to-date total was US$218,57 billion.
Chinese imports of US agricultural goods rose 44,4% in the first three quarters year-on-year and Chinese exports of medical products to the USA rose 32,4% over that time, while that of mobile phones fell by 3,4%.
Even if China’s imports from the USA over the first nine months of the year rose 2,8% while exports rose 1,8%, analysts are pointing out that China is far from reaching its imports quota agreed in the phase one trade deal signed with the USA. in January i.e., buying at least $200 billion more over the next two years in U.S. goods and services relative to the 2017 level. The projected purchases include at least $32 billion more in agricultural products, with an unspecified amount of soybeans. This means that, in order to fulfil the trade agreement, China will need to buy a total of US$172,7 billion American goods by the end of 2021.
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Sinologist and Chief Analyst on Chinese Affairs at Nato Defense College Foundation. Foreign affairs writer for international magazines and publications.