Review of China’s Foreign Trade in 2019

( The Chinese version shall prevail. )


Review of China’s Foreign Trade in 2019

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

January 14, 2020


According to Customs statistics, China’s foreign trade volume in 2019 stood at RMB31.54 trillion, up by 3.4% year-on-year (similarly hereinafter). Exports rose by 5% to RMB17.23 trillion and imports grew by 1.6% to RMB14.31 trillion. The trade surplus increased by 25.4% to RMB 2.92 trillion.

In 2019, China’s foreign trade registered a momentum of improving quality amid overall stability.  The details are as follows. 

First, trade volume witnessed quarterly  expansion. The import and export values of the first through the fourth quarter of 2019 stood at RMB7.03, 7.68, 8.26 and 8.59 trillion, respectively, with new records set in annual trade, exports and imports. In December, foreign trade witnessed a double-digit growth of 12.7%, totalling RMB3.01 trillion. Exports grew by 9% to RMB1.67 trillion; imports increased by 17.7% to RMB1.34 trillion. Monthly trade, exports and imports all reached historical highs.     


Second, the rankings of main trading partners shifted with ASEAN becoming China’s second largest trading partner. In 2019, China’s trade with the EU, our largest trading partner, grew by 8% to RMB 4.86 trillion; ASEAN became China’s No.2 trading partner, whose trade with China grew by 14.1% to RMB4.43 trillion, whereas Sino-US trade fell by 10.7% to RMB3.73 trillion; China’s trade with Japan, which ranked the 4th, stood at RMB 2.17 trillion, up by 0.4%. In addition, China’s trade with Belt and Road countries totalled RMB9.27 trillion, up by 10.8% and 7.4 percentage points above the overall growth.  

Third, in term of foreign trade volume, private enterprises exceeded foreign-invested enterprises for the first time and grew into the biggest contributor to our country. In 2019, the private enterprises’ foreign trade increased by 11.4% to RMB13.48 trillion. Accounting for 42.7% of China’s total trade, which is 3.1 percentage points higher than that of 2018, the private enterprises had overtaken foreign-invested companies in becoming China’s biggest foreign trade operator. In breakdown, its exports were up by 13% to RMB8.9 trillion, accounting for 51.6% of total exports; its imports grew by 8.4% to RMB4.58 trillion, making up 32% of total imports. Foreign-invested companies, whose foreign trade fell by 3.2% to RMB12.57 trillion, took up 39.9% of China’s foreign trade. The imports and exports of state-owned enterprises rose 0.4% to RMB5.32 trillion, accounting for 16.9% of the total.

Fourth, the mode and structure of trade optimized as the percentage of general trade rose. In 2019, the volume of China’s general trade rose by 5.6% to RMB18.61 trillion, making up 59% of total trade, which is 1.2 percentage points above the 2018 level. In breakdown, exports were up by 7.8%, totalling RMB9.95 trillion; imports reached RMB 8.66 trillion, up by 3.1%. Processing trade fell by 5.1% to RMB 7.95 trillion, accounting for 25.2% of the total.

Fifth, electro-mechanic and labor-intensive products dominated exports with the former accounting for nearly 60%. In 2019, China’s electro-mechanic exports grew by 4.4% to RMB10.06 trillion, making up 58.4% of total exports. Of these, the exports of electric appliances and electronics increased by 5.4% to RMB4.63 trillion; machinery and equipment exports were up by 1.4% to RMB2.87 trillion. Over the same period, exports across seven categories of labor-intensive products including textile and apparel grew by 6.1% to RMB3.31 trillion, making up 19.2% of the total. 

Sixth, the imports of iron ore, crude oil, natural gas and soybean, among other commodities all increased. In 2019, China imported 1.069 billion tons of iron ore, up by 0.5%; 506 million tons of crude oil, up by 9.5%; 96.56 million tons of natural gas, up by 6.9%; and 88.51 million tons of soybean, up by 0.5%. Besides, the imports of meat products grew relatively fast with 2.108 million tons of pork imported, up by 75% and 1.659 million tons of beef imported, up by 59.7%.  

In recent years, China Customs has implemented in earnest the decisions and plans of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, continuously deepening her reforms to streamline admiministration, delegate powers and improve regulations and services, keeping on improving doing business environment, significantly reducing the overall clearance time and continuously optimizing the business environment at ports. In 2019, the overall clearance time of import and export were cut by 42.3% and 42.4% year-on-year to 41.4 hours and 4 hours, respectively.  

Overall, despite significantly rising domestic and international risks and challenges, China’s foreign trade scored both steady growth in quantity and continuous improvement in quality throughout the year of 2019. Faced with continual slowdown in the world economy and rising uncertainties and instabilities, China Customs will follow the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era, implement the spirit of the 19th CPC National Congress, the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th plenaries of the 19th CPC Central Committee and the Central Economic Work Conference, and observe the general guideline of seeking progress amidst stability in pursuing supply-side structural reform, maintaining stability in foreign trade and foreign capital, among the six areas, and continuously optimizing the business environment at ports to strive for opening-up of a higher level, steady growth and quality development of foreign trade, better service of national socioeconomic development and greater contribution to the development of a moderately prosperous society in all aspects.    




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

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