China imports surge on firmer domestic demand

Steady growth: Sparks fly as a worker produces engineering equipment for export at a factory in Nantong. The official purchasing managers index for the manufacturing sector, a leading economic indicator, stayed at a relatively high level of 51.1 last month. — AFP

BEIJING: China’s imports surged by the fastest pace in a decade last month as domestic demand gained more traction, but policy support is still needed in order to consolidate economic recovery and help hard-hit businesses, officials and experts said.

China’s total foreign trade grew 26.6% year-on-year to 3.15 trillion yuan (US$487.6bil or RM2.01bil) in April. In US dollar terms, imports grew 43.1% last month, the fastest pace in over 10 years, the General Administration of Customs said.

During the January-April period, the country’s imports jumped 22.7% year-on-year to 5.3 trillion yuan while exports soared 33.8% to 6.32 trillion yuan, sending its trade surplus surging 149.7% to 1.02 trillion yuan, according to Customs data.

Underpinning the robust foreign trade growth was a global economic rebound that drove up overseas demand, as well as rising international commodity prices and recovering domestic demand that have combined to prop up the country’s imports, officials and experts said.

Sheng Laiyun, deputy head of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), said the Chinese economy has maintained a strong momentum of recovery, with consumer demand picking up and leading indicators showing positive changes.

“Retail sales grew by 1.75% in March from February, indicating that consumption has continued to improve while the nation’s vast consumer market has large potential and strong resilience, ” Sheng said.

The official purchasing managers index for the manufacturing sector, a leading economic indicator, stayed at a “relatively high level” of 51.1 last month and signalled the robust expansionary momentum of the economy, Sheng said in an interview with Economic Daily.

Recovering consumer spending and buoyed production have helped prop up China’s imports, with a large amount of industrial and agricultural products imported from developed countries such as the United States, said Liang Ming, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation in Beijing.

China’s continuous surge in exports, meanwhile, has demonstrated how the country’s robust and complete industrial system chain has contributed even more to global supply chain stability amid pandemic-caused disruptions to supply chains, Liang said.

“Though China’s exports of anti-pandemic materials have gradually declined since late last year, electromechanical and electronic products, such as mobile phones and laptops, enjoyed robust sales. Exports of these products have not declined as the world is recovering from the virus, ” Liang said.

Many Chinese companies have ridden the wave of rising overseas orders and increased output, experts said. William Li, CEO of Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer Nio Inc, for instance, said Nio vehicles will be available in five European countries by 2022, after it will start exporting vehicles to Norway in September.

Chinese exporters, nevertheless, are under pressure from growing commodity, labour and shipping costs, said Chen Zhongda, deputy head of Yinzhou Customs, a branch of Ningbo Customs district in East China’s Zhejiang province. — China Daily/ANN

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