China delivers robust performance of foreign trade in 2020

Employees manufacture photovoltaic batteries to be exported at Shenzhou New Energy Co., Ltd. of Lianyungang, east China's Jiangsu province, Aug. 11, 2020. (Photo by Geng Yuhe/People's Daily Online)

China secured extraordinary performance in its foreign trade against headwinds in the past year thanks to the country’s targeted measures to stabilize entities, market share, export orders and the industrial and supply chains.

Given the impacts from COVID-19, the Chinese government paid close attention to the trend of foreign trade and timely issued measures and policies to make the sector steady.

According to statistics from the customs, China’s foreign trade of goods totaled 29.04 trillion yuan (about $4.44 trillion) in the first 11 months last year, up 1.8 percent year on year and the highest January-November figure in history.

China’s total exports hit 1.41 trillion yuan in April, an uptick of 8.2 percent from a year ago, representing the first recovery of the country’s exports after the sector experienced double-digit fall in the first quarter. Two months later, both China’s exports and imports achieved positive growth.

In the first 9 months of 2020, the cumulative growth of China’s foreign trade for the first time turned positive. In November, the country’s foreign trade stood at 3.09 trillion yuan, up 7.8 percent and maintaining positive growth for 6 months in a row.

Despite the cold weather, the Leliu wharf in Shunde, Foshan, south China’s Guangdong province was kept busy. Tractors loaded with newly manufactured containers were being cleared by the customs in an orderly manner at the gate. “Our exports growth has turned positive since May 2020 and is kept rising,” said Zhong Bingsheng, who’s responsible for customs clearance work at Guangdong Fuwa Engineering Group Co., Ltd., the manufacturer of these containers.

However, it was not easy to achieve the recovery. Impacted by COVID-19 which made overseas market chaotic, the company only exported 14,784 containers in the first 4 months of 2020, whose value was only 403 million yuan, down by 39.49 percent from a year ago.

After thorough investigation, the office of Foshan customs in Shunde improved the management mechanism and video surveillance system for newly manufactured containers, thanks to which the containers can be monitored remotely and their numbers intelligently recognized.

“The customs clearance is now more efficient, which significantly lowered the logistics cost,” Zhong said. In the January-November period, the company exported 108,300 containers with a total value of nearly 3.09 billion yuan, up nearly 90 percent from a year ago.

China’s foreign trade delivered robust performance, from the setbacks in the first quarter, to the stability in the second quarter, and to the comprehensive bounce in the third quarter, said Liang Ming, director of the foreign trade institute of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce. Apart from the new historical high figures, the country also further increased its share in the global market, injecting new momentum to the recovery of global economy, Liang added.

“Declaring the cargos on China-Europe freight trains is our major business, and our performance doubled last year,” said Yu Xuefei, a customs broker of a company in east China’s Zhejiang province. According to him, the China-Europe freight trains attracted many clients for their steady services as COVID-19 impeded international air and marine transportation. Many of the company’s clients who used to export their products via sea routes have turned to the freight service, he added. For instance, 7 to 8 trains departed for Central Asia each week in 2020, while the figure was only 5 in previous years, he introduced.

According to statistics released by Hangzhou customs department, commodities exported from Yiwu, Zhejiang province via China-Europe freight trains totaled 6.59 billion yuan in the first 11 months of 2020, 1.27 times of those from a year ago. In addition, 673 million yuan of commodities were exported by the city through air transportation, growing 1.66 times.

In 2020, China accelerated the speed of fostering new business forms of foreign trade and achieved remarkable results. It began an experimental supervision mode to boost B2B e-commerce export, and launched 17 pilot projects of market procurement trade.

In the first three quarters last year, China’s import and export through the customs cross-border e-commerce management platform reached 187.39 billion yuan, up 52.8 percent, and the exports via market procurement trade totaled 509.86 billion yuan, up 35.5 percent. The exports via market procurement trade in the first 11 months last year added up to 639.89 billion yuan, up 33.7 percent year on year.

China made new progress in the high-quality development of foreign trade over the past year. In the January-November period, the imports and exports of general trade went up 3.2 percent, and the exports of the private sector surged 12.2 percent. The country has consolidated its competitiveness and optimized its export structure, with robust export performance in integrated circuit, computer, medical equipment and other high-tech and high-added value industries. The export growth of the above industries were 14.8 percent, 10.7 percent and 44.5 percent, respectively in the first 11 months of 2020.

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