Review of China’s Foreign Trade in the First Three Quarters of 2018

General Administration of Customs of the Peoples Republic of China

October 12, 2018



In 2018, under the leadership of the CPC central committee and the State Council, all provincial authorities and central departments have carried out policies and measures boosting the stable growth of foreign trade, so as to address difficulties and challenges facing Chinas foreign trade development. As a result, Chinas foreign trade develops smoothly, which has been stable and yet progressive.

According to Customs statistics, in the first three quarters of 2018, Chinas foreign trade volume reached RMB 22.28 billion, an increase of 9.9% year on year (similarly hereafter). Chinas export volume stood at RMB 11.86 trillion, an increase of 6.5%; the import volume reached RMB 10.42 trillion, an increase of 14.1%; the trade surplus amounted to RMB 1.44 trillion, shrinking by 28.3%. The details are as follows.

1. The foreign trade volume grew every quarter, and the growth rate of the third quarter was higher than the rest. In the first three quarters of 2018, Chinas foreign trade volume rose to RMB 6.76 trillion, RMB 7.35 trillion and RMB 8.17 trillion, up by 9.4%, 6.4% and 13.8%, respectively.

2. The general trade volume grew rapidly and its proportion increased. In the first three quarters of 2018, Chinas general trade volume stood at RMB 13.02 trillion, an increase of 13.5%, accounting for 58.4% of Chinas total trade volume, up by 1.9 percentage points. The trade structure has been improved.

3. The trade volume with major trading partners grew, in particular some countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In the first three quarters of 2018, Chinas trade volume with the EU, the US and ASEAN countries increased by 7.3%, 6.5% and 12.6%, respectively, the combination of which accounted for 41.2% of the total trade volume. In the same period, Chinas trade volume with Russia, Poland and Kazakhstan (BRI countries) rose by 19.4%, 11.9% and 11.8%, respectively, higher than that of the total trade.

4. The trade volume and proportion of private enterprises went up. In the first three quarters of 2018, the trade volume of Chinas private enterprises reached RMB 8.77 trillion, an increase of 12.9%, accounting for 39.4% of the total trade volume, up by 1 percentage point year on year. The export volume of private enterprises amounted to RMB 5.68 trillion, an increase of 9.6%, making up 47.9% of the total export volume, remaining the largest among all market operators with its proportion up by 1.4 percentage points. The import volume of private enterprises reached RMB 3.09 trillion, up by 19.5%.

5. Import and export growth in central western regions and north eastern regions is faster than the national figure, with more balanced regional development. In the first three quarters of 2018, the foreign trade growth rate was 16.3% in the 12 western provinces and municipalities, 13.9% in the 6 central provinces and municipalities, and 12.4% in the 3 northeastern provinces, higher than the national rate by 6.4 percentage points, 4 percentage points and 2.5 percentage points, respectively. The foreign trade growth rate in the 10 eastern provinces and municipalities reached 9%.

6. Electro-mechanical products and labor-intensive products remained the major exports. In the first three quarters of 2018, electro-mechanical exports increased by 7.8% to RMB6.91 trillion, taking up 58.3% of Chinas total export value. Exports of automobiles and mobile phones increased by 16.3% and 15.2%, respectively. Over the same period, exports of seven types of labor-intensive products, including clothes, toys, etc., declined by 0.8% to RMB2.29 trillion, accounting for 19.3% of the total export value.

7. Major bulk commodities such as crude oil, natural gas and copper have seen an increase in both volume and price. In the first three quarters of 2018, the import of crude oil, natural gas, refined oil and copper hit 336 million tons, 64.78 million tons, 24.59 million tons and 3.99 million tons, up by 5.9%, 34%, 9.8% and 16.1%, respectively. The import of iron ore and soybean dropped by 1.6% and 2% to 803 million tons and 70.01 million tons, respectively. Over the same period, Chinas overall import price has grown by 4.2%, with the average import price of crude oil, refined oil, natural gas and copper increasing by 28.3%, 19%, 16.9% and 6.1%, respectively.

By and large, Chinas foreign trade growth in 2018 remained steady with progress witnessed, and the country has been advancing the high-quality development of its foreign trade. Despite the presence of instabilities and uncertainties in global economy and trade, in particular, the impact caused by China-US trade frictions, the direct and indirect influence is basically under control. China Customs, under the guidance of the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, will uphold the spirit of the 19th CPC National Congress and implement the decisions made at the Central Economic Work Conference. With the aim of seeking improvement in stability, China Customs will follow the new development philosophy and work hard to meet the requirement of high-quality development. China Customs will advance reform measures and promote trade facilitation, in an effort to boost foreign trade and better serve Chinas economic and social development.


General Administration of Customs of the People's Republic of China

Address: No.6. Jianguomennei Avenue, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China        Postcode: 100730