China exports rise at robust pace in March, imports growth highest in four years

China’s exports grew at a robust pace in March in yet another boost to the nation’s economic recovery as global demand picks up amid progress in worldwide COVID-19 vaccination, while import growth surged to the highest in four years. The data reinforces signs of gathering momentum for the world’s second-largest economy as it emerges from the COVID-19-led slump in early 2020.

Exports in dollar terms soared 30.6 percent in March from a year earlier, but at a slower pace from a record 154.9 percent growth in February. The analysts polled by Reuters have forecast a 35.5 percent jump in shipments. Imports increased 38.1 percent year-on-year last month, the highest since February 2017, beating a 23.3 percent forecast and compared with 17.3 percent growth in February.

China posted a trade surplus of USD 13.8 billion last month, versus analysts expectations for the surplus to rise to USD 52.05 billion from USD 37.88 billion in February. Despite sporadic COVID-19 cases in China’s border cities, authorities have been able to largely contain the virus in a boost to factory activity as production has gradually picked up to pre-pandemic levels.

Beijing managed to largely bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control much earlier than many countries thanks to stringent anti-virus curbs and lockdowns at the initial phase of the outbreak last year. That has helped its economy mount a rapid turnaround after a slump at the start of 2020, led by resurgent exports growth as factories raced to fill overseas orders.

Global demand for Chinese goods have remained strong as the world economic recovery has continued to gather pace helped in part by stepped-up vaccination efforts. China’s gross domestic product expanded 2.3 percent last year, the only major economy to post growth in 2020, underpinned by solid demand for goods such as medical and work-from-home equipment. Still, the massive initial hit from the COVID-19 crisis meant China’s growth in 2020 was still its weakest in 44 years.

This year, China has set a modest growth target of at least 6 percent, as authorities plotted a careful course out of a year disrupted by COVID-19 and amid heightened tensions with the United States.

China’s trade surplus with the United States slipped to USD 21.37 billion in March from a USD 23.01 billion in February. President Joe Biden said last month that the United States was not seeking confrontation with China over differences on trade.

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