In recent years, China’s import trade has continued to yield benefits as the country has made active efforts to expand imports, which epitomizes not only the country’s concrete practice of constantly deepening reform and opening-up and improving people’s living standards, but its practical actions to open the domestic market to the rest of the world.
Last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic took a heavy toll on global trade in a way rarely seen before, China became the first country in the world to resume work and production after bringing the epidemic under control in a relatively short time through scientific and effective measures. Meanwhile, the country’s imports recovered faster from the impact of the pandemic than that of other countries.
China imported 14.23 trillion yuan (about $2.2 trillion) worth of goods in 2020. Despite the impacts of the COVID-19, the country’s import trade in goods recorded a V-shaped rebound last year, demonstrating strong resilience.
China’s huge domestic market has provided powerful support for expanding imports, said Li Kuiwen, spokesman of the General Administration of Customs (GAC) of China and director of the department of statistics and analysis of the GAC.
China’s advantage of a huge domestic market was particularly prominent under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and helped ensure stable demand for imports, Li added.
Import of consumer goods in China has improved the living standards of domestic consumers. In recent years, the country’s food imports have witnessed continuous growth in terms of value, quantity, and categories of imported products, connecting huge consumption potential in the Chinese market with the real needs of consumers.
In 2020, the volumes of China’s grain and meat imports increased by 28 percent and 60.4 percent respectively.
China’s imports have played an increasingly important role in driving the world economy. From 2001 to 2019, the country’s goods imports expanded continuously at an average annual growth rate of 12.6 percent, while that of the world’s imports stood at 6.3 percent during the same period.
Even in the eventful year of 2020, China’s import trade outshone that of other countries.
According to monthly estimates of trade in goods of major economies released by the World Trade Organization (WTO), the share of China’s imports in the global market reached 11.5 percent in the first ten months of 2020, 0.7 percentage points higher that the country’s historical peak, which made the country a strong support for the economic growth of various other countries.
As a matter of fact, China’s domestic demand for imported products has not been fully unleashed. As Chinese people’s income continues increasing and their consumption upgrading keeps gaining momentum, the country is expected to witness greater domestic demand for imported goods and a significant change in consumer preferences.
While there will be a growing demand for various high-end goods and luxuries, the domestic market is also going to see a gradual increase in the demand for high-quality consumer goods and cost-effective branded products from overseas. It can be a precious opportunity for any foreign enterprise, especially large transnational enterprises.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made a profound impact on the global economy. It has plunged the global economy into the worst economic recession since the World War Ⅱ, said a report of the World Bank.
Against such a backdrop, the decision of foreign companies to actively expand exports to China bears more strategic significance than ever.
It’s beyond doubt that China will remain one of the largest markets, and the most promising and the best market in the world in the next five years and even beyond. The Chinese market is also believed to be more and more open and attractive.
The country intends to unswervingly expand opening-up in a comprehensive way, promote connectivity between the domestic and overseas markets as well as the sharing of production factors and resources, and generate greater benefits for itself and the rest of the world via import trade.
(The author Wei Hao is a professor of the Business School of Beijing Normal University and director of the national import research center with the university.)