BEIJING ( Associated Press) — China’s politically volatile global trade surplus rose to $676.4 billion in 2021, possibly the most for any country, as exports jumped 29.9% from a year ago despite a shortage of semiconductors interrupted manufacturing.
The country’s monthly trade surplus in December rose 20.8% from a year earlier to a record $94.4 billion, customs data showed on Friday.
China piled up a series of monthly export surpluses in 2021, but they drew less criticism from the United States and other trading partners than in prior years, while their governments focused on coronavirus infections.
Exports rose to $3.3 trillion in 2021 despite a shortage of processor chips for smartphones and other goods, as global demand bounced back from the coronavirus pandemic. Manufacturers were also hampered by power rationing in some areas to meet government efficiency targets.
Surplus with the United States, one of the bottlenecks behind a lingering US-Chinese trade war, rose 25.1% to $396.6 billion in 2021 from a year earlier. Trade envoys have spoken since President Joe Biden took office in January, but have yet to announce a date to resume face-to-face talks.
Despite a tariff hike by Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, exports to the United States grew by 27.5% to $576.1 billion in 2020, which is still applicable to many goods. Chinese imports of US goods rose 33.1% to $179.5 billion.
In December, China’s monthly trade surplus with the United States rose 31.1% to $39.2 billion from a year earlier. Exports to the US market rose 21.1% to $56.4 billion, while imports of US goods rose 3.3% to $17.1 billion.
Capital Economics’ Julian Evans-Pritchard said this month, China’s global export volumes are likely to weaken due to congestion at ports where anti-coronavirus restrictions have been imposed and shippers clear backlogs due to changes in global demand.
“We will still condition export volumes to be lower by the end of this year rather than lower,” Evans-Pritchard said in a report.
Chinese imports rose 30.1% to $2.7 trillion in 2021 as the world’s second biggest recovery from the pandemic hit.
Economic growth weakened in the second half of the year as Beijing launched a campaign to reduce what it sees as dangerously high debt in the real estate industry, but consumer spending was well above pre-pandemic levels. .
Manufacturing activity rose higher in December, but new export orders contracted, according to an earlier survey by the government statistics bureau and the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing, an industry group.
Chinese exporters benefited from being allowed to resume most normal business in early 2020, while foreign competitors faced anti-coronavirus restrictions on travel and trade. That advantage was carried over into 2021 as other governments renewed controls in response to the spread of new virus variants.
Earlier, forecasters said Chinese exporters would benefit from the spread of the latest version, Omicron, which Beijing appears to be keeping out of the country. Recently, however, China has responded to outbreaks within its borders by imposing travel restrictions on major cities including Tianjin, a manufacturing hub where Omicron was found.
China’s global trade surplus was an increase of 26.4% compared to 2020, which economists said was one of the highest ever reported by any economy. He said the only comparison as a percentage of the size of the economy was that of Saudi Arabia and other oil exporters during the price boom in the 1970s, but their total revenues were lower.
The increased trade surplus has hit China’s central bank’s ability to manage its yuan’s exchange rate, which has risen to multi-year highs against the US dollar as money flows into the country. The People’s Bank of China has attempted to limit the ability of banks and other traders to speculate on the currency’s movement.
China’s trade surplus with the 27-nation European Union, its second largest trading partner, rose 57.4% to $208.4 billion in 2021 from a year earlier. Exports to the EU rose 32.6% to $518.3 billion, while imports of European goods rose 19.8% to $309.9 billion.
In December, China’s trade surplus with Europe increased 85.9% from a year earlier to $25.1 billion.