Transforming China’s Foreign Trade

By Li Bijian | Business Recorder Aug 15, 2022

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, China has expedited the building of a new system of an open economy and made historic achievements as well as transformation in terms of foreign trade. China became the world’s largest trader of goods in 2013, and the world’s largest trader in goods and services in 2020. In 2021, China’s trade in goods reached USD 6.05 trillion. China accounted for 15.1% of global export and 11.9% of global import. China’s trade in services has ranked second in the world for eight consecutive years, and surpassed USD 800 billion in 2021, up 70% from 2012.

First, stronger comprehensive competitiveness. The independent development capacity of trade has strengthened significantly. 60.9% of export in 2021 was completed through general trade, up by 12.7 percentage points from 2012. 49.5% of the export went to emerging markets, up by 6.2 percentage points from a decade ago. 20% of the export were sourced from central and western regions, up by 5.9 percentage points from 2012. Private enterprises accounted for 57.7% of export, up by 20.1 percentage points in ten years. The past decade also witnessed rapid growth in the export of high-quality, high-tech, high value-added products, for example, a surge of 150.9% in auto export.

Second, better outcome for trading with “Belt and Road”countries. From 2013 to 2021, China's imports and exports with countries along the “Belt and Road” grew from RMB 6.46 trillion to RMB 11.6 trillion, the share of which in China’s total foreign trade increased from 25% to 29.7%. In the first four months of 2022, China's imports and exports with countries along the “Belt and Road” reached RMB 3.97 trillion, an increase of 15.4%, 7.5 percentage points higher than the overall growth rate of China’s foreign trade.

Third, stronger impetus from new business models. Cross-border e-commerce, market procurement and other new business forms and models continued to flourish. The number of comprehensive pilot zones for cross-border e-commerce increased to 132, equipped with over 2,000 overseas warehouses. The import and export through cross-border e-commerce grew nearly 10 times in 5 years, reaching RMB 1.92 trillion yuan in 2021, up 18.6% year-on-year. There are now over 1,500 businesses providing integrated services in support of foreign trade, including over 130 bonded maintenance service providers with 24,000 employees. Steady progress has also been made in offshore trade.

Fourth, better environment for facilitating trade. The number of documents required for imports and exports was reduced from 86 to 41, significantly cutting down the overall customs clearance time. In December 2021, the overall Customs clearance time for imports and exports was 32.97 hours and 1.23 hours respectively, which was 66.14% and 89.98% shorter than in 2017, greatly lowering the institutional transaction costs. China has pressed ahead with procedural optimization, operation coordination and international connectivity of “Single Window”, continuously fostered a more enabling business environment at ports, with the sense of fulfillment of foreign trade enterprises being enhanced.

Fifth, Greater contribution to economic growth. In 2021, the net export of goods and services drove up GDP by 1.7 percentage points, contributing 20.9% to GDP growth. Foreign trade contributed to stable national employment by creating about 180 million jobs, and new business models like cross-border e-commerce opened up new channels for flexible employment. China increased consumer goods import to meet diversified needs. Trade surplus in 2021 was kept at USD 676.4 billion, which played an important role in maintaining balance of payments.

Particularly since the outbreak of COVID-19, China has taken active steps to advance international cooperation on COVID-19 response and provided over 350 billion masks, 4 billion protective suits, 6 billion testing kits, and 1.6 billion doses of vaccines to the international community. China is working together with trade partners to contribute to the stability of global industrial chain and supply chain and the recovery of world economy.

Standing at a new historical starting point,China will continue to implement innovation-driven strategy in order to achieve healthy and stable of foreign trade,thus achieving high-quality development of domestic and international circulation and setting the stage for the 20th National Congress of the CPC with outstanding achievements. 

(Mr Li Bijian, the author, is Consul General of China in Karachi)

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