Review of China’s Foreign Trade in the First Half of 2020
Review of China’s Foreign Trade in the First Half of 2020

General Administration of Customs
People’s Republic of China

July 14, 2020

    Since the start of this year, China, under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with President Xi Jinping at the core, has made great efforts to combat COVID-19 while ensuring socioeconomic development. The country has been forging ahead with the goal of ensuring stability in employment, financial operations, foreign trade, foreign investment, domestic investment and expectations, as well as the task of ensuring security in job, basic living needs, operations of market entities, food and energy security, stable industrial and supply chains, and the normal functioning of primary-level governments. As a result, the foreign trade in the first half of the year was better than expected. According to Customs statistics, China’s foreign trade volume in goods in the first half of 2020 reached RMB14.24 trillion, down by 3.2% year-on-year (similarly hereinafter), shrinking by 1.7 percentage points compared to the year-on-year decrease of the first five months. Exports dropped by 3% to RMB7.71 trillion and imports fell by 3.3% to RMB6.53 trillion. The details are as follows:

    1. Foreign trade in the first half of the year was better than expected, with both imports and exports registering positive growth in June. Following the turbulence of the first quarter, imports and exports of the second quarter showed signs of recovery and stability. China’s foreign trade in the second quarter was RMB7.67 trillion, a decrease of 0.2%, shrinking by 6.3 percentage points compared to the year-on-year decrease of the first quarter. The exports has risen for three consecutive months since April. In June, foreign trade increased by 5.1% compared to the previous year, with exports and imports growing 4.3% and 6.2%, respectively.

    2. Imports and exports in private sector increased against the overall context, playing a more prominent role in maintaining the stable growth of foreign trade. In the first half of 2020, China’s private businesses, the largest part in China’s foreign trade, registered RMB6.42 trillion in imports and exports, an increase of 4.9%, accounting for 45.1% of the country’s total foreign trade volume, 3.5 percentage points higher year on year. Exports stood at RMB4.14 trillion, up by 3.2%, accounting for 53.7% of China’s total exports. Imports reached RMB2.28 trillion, an increase of 8.1%, taking up 34.9% of the country’s total imports. Foreign-invested enterprises marked RMB5.55 trillion in foreign trade, accounting for 39% of the country’s total foreign trade volume. State-owned enterprises witnessed RMB2.22 trillion in imports and exports, taking up 15.6% of the total foreign trade volume.

    3. ASEAN has become China's biggest trading partner, with imports and exports between the two sides seeing continuous growth. In the first half of 2020, trade with ASEAN registered RMB2.09 trillion, an increase of 5.6%, accounting for 14.7% of China’s total foreign trade volume. Trade with EU totaled RMB1.99 trillion, down by 1.8%. Trade with US stood at RMB1.64 trillion, down by 6.6%. Trade with countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative reached RMB4.2 trillion, with a slight decline of 0.9%, which is 2.3 percentage points lower than the country’s overall decrease in foreign trade year on year.

    4. Proportion of ordinary trade volume increased, with trade structure being continuously optimized. In the first half of 2020, ordinary trade dropped by 2.6% to RMB8.55 trillion, accounting for 60.1% of China’s total foreign trade volume, 0.4 percentage points higher than the previous year. Exports fell by 2% to RMB4.56 trillion. Imports decreased by 3.2% to RMB3.99 trillion. Processing trade dropped by 8% to RMB3.36 trillion, taking up 23.6% of the country’s total foreign trade volume.

    5. Imports and exports in central and western regions kept growing, with development among different regions becoming more balanced and better coordinated. In the first half of 2020, eastern region registered RMB11.39 trillion in foreign trade, down by 4.7%, and that of the central and western regions totaled RMB2.38 trillion, up by 5.7%, accounting for 16.7% of the country’s total foreign trade volume. Central and western regions’ proportion in foreign trade increased by 1.4 percentage points compared to the previous year.

    6. Exports of supplies to combat COVID-19 and stay-at-home essentials grew fast, and exports of electro-mechanical products and labor-intensive products decreased slower than the overall speed. In the first half of 2020, exports of textile products including face masks surged by 32.4%.Exports of medicines and pharmaceutical products, and medical equipment increased by 23.6% and 46.4%, respectively. Driven by stay-at-home economy, the exports of laptops and mobile phones went up by 9.1% and 0.2%, respectively. At the same time, exports of electro-mechanical products totaled RMB4.52 trillion, down by 2.3%, taking up 58.6% of the country’s total exports. Exports of seven categories of labor-intensive products such as textiles and clothes fell by 1.4% to RMB1.5 trillion, accounting for 19.4% of the country’s overall exports.

    7. The volume of imported and exported goods increased, with more imports of bulk commodities and key agricultural products. In the first half of 2020, China Customs handled 2.33 billion tons of imported and exported goods, increasing by 6.6%, among which imports registered 1.56 billion tons, up by 8.3%. For bulk commodities, China imported 547 million tons of iron ore, up by 9.6%; 269 million tons of crude oil, up by 9.9%; 174 million tons of coal, up by 12.7%; 48.359 million tons of natural gas, up by 3.3%. Imports of some agricultural products also went up in the first half of 2020. Imports of soybeans grew by 17.9% to 45.044 million tons. Imports of pork surged by 140% to 2.123 million tons. Imports of beef increased by 42.9% to 997,000 tons.The world is undergoing profound changes due to the outbreak of COVID-19, with the global economy plunging into a deep recession and the international trade and investment experiencing sharp contraction. As a consequence, China’s foreign trade development is now facing a more grim and complicated external environment.

        China Customs, guided by Xi Jinping’s Thoughts on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, will constantly make hard efforts to prevent cross-border spreading of COVID-19 and ensure stable foreign trade growth in line with the decisions and requirements of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. With confidence and determination, China Customs will work to support the national efforts of ensuring stability in six key areas and the six national priorities amid the pandemic.China Customs will also support businesses in exploring global market by making trading across borders easier. The Customs will make its due contributions to ensuring stable and high quality foreign trade, and achieving the country’s social and economic goals for this year.

(This is the translated English version and the Chinese version shall prevail.)


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

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