China’s exports growth outpaces pre-pandemic levels, offsetting coronavirus impact

China’s foreign trade boomed again in October, with exports surging at their fastest pace for 19 months and imports showing stable growth, as the world’s second-largest economy continues to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.

Outbound shipments leapt 11.4 percent in dollar terms last month compared to a year earlier, and hit $237 billion, customs data released on Saturday shows. The unexpected jump exceeded analysts’ expectations and is higher than the already strong September numbers, which saw exports increase by nearly 10 percent.  

China’s exports have risen for five consecutive months, while most other major economies are still trying to mitigate the devastating impact of the virus. 

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Imports into China slowed after September’s surprise increase of over 13 percent. Inbound shipments reached $179 billion last month, growing by 4.7 percent year on year and falling short of the expected rise of over eight percent.

Skyrocketing exports and cooling imports have only widened China’s trade surplus with the rest of the world, including the US, which was one of the reasons Washington started its simmering trade conflict with Beijing. Despite Beijing having accelerated its purchases of American goods, as required by the terms of the US-China trade deal, China’s trade surplus with the US jumped slightly to $31.37 billion in October, from $30.75 billion in September, and was up around 19 percent year on year. 

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China’s booming exports have been driven by a strong demand for medical supplies, as well as for electronic equipment, owing to the shift to working from home amid the pandemic. However, analysts have warned that the resurgence of the virus around the globe, and renewed lockdowns in Europe, may cripple demand and eventually have a negative impact on China’s trade performance next month.

The world’s second-largest economy is expected to become the only one among its major peers to secure growth this year. After a dramatic plunge in the first three months of 2020, China’s gross domestic product returned to growth in the second quarter and further expanded from July to September, increasing by 3.2 percent and 4.9 percent respectively.

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