Surplus to requirements 顺差的需要
Why is China’s trade surplus growing when its exports have collapsed?
THIS week revised figures revealed that China overtook Germany in 2007 to become the world’s third-biggest economy. At the start of last year China also looked set to become the world’s biggest exporter, but a slump in exports in the final months of the year meant they remained smaller than Germany’s. China’s exports tumbled by 13% (in dollar terms) in the fourth quarter, leaving them 3% lower in December than a year earlier. Despite this, China’s trade surplus rose to a record $457 billion at an annual rate in the fourth quarter—50% bigger than in the same period of 2007. What is going on?
In the first half of 2008 China’s trade surplus did indeed shrink (see chart). But since then, although exports slumped, imports fell by much more—down by 21% in the 12 months to December. The slide in both exports and imports was exacerbated by the global credit freeze, which has made it harder for companies around the world to get letters of credit to guarantee payment. Imports were also dragged down by cheaper oil and commodity prices, and by weaker imports of materials and components used to make exports (over 50% of total imports).