China's Trade Trends May 2022

According to the latest data disclosed by the General Administration of Customs of China, the total international trade in the first five months of 2022 increased by 10.3% compared to the same period the previous year, despite the lockdown measures implemented in Shanghai and Beijing in April and May this year.


Total trade reached a record high of USD 2,515 billion, among which exports for USD 1,403 billion (an increase of 13.5%). Imports went up by 6.6% to USD 1,112 billion. The trade surplus in the first five months topped USD 290 billion versus USD 193 billion in 2021.


The ASEAN members, with USD 371 billion of trade, account for 14.7% of the Chinese trade in 2022. The bloc represented the first trading partner and increased its trade with China by over 10.2% this year. The members of the European Union (USD 345 billion, 13.7% of China's total trade and +8.8% vs same period previous year) and the United States (USD 314 billion, 12.5% of China's total trade, and +12.2% increase compared to a year earlier) are the second and third trading partners of China.


Monthly, Chinese trade in May 2022 increased by 11.1% compared to May 2021. Exports, one of the drivers of the Chinese economy, increased by 16.9% compared to May 2021, while the imports’ growth slowed down, +4.1% compared to the same period last year. It is interesting to note that many trading partners incurred in the decline of the exports to China, excluding Russia, Indonesia, and the United States.


In May 2022, imports from the United States increased by 21.2% after the US started to ease the tensions derived from the trade war, with imports of soya beans topping USD 1.2 billion, almost 8-fold the amount imported in May 2021.


Chinese imports from Russia grew by 79.6%, the most significant increase last month. China mainly imports from Russia raw materials, such as petroleum oils obtained from crude (+123.5% vs May 2021) and non-crude (+1,130%), coal (+88.1%), petroleum gases (+331%), and refined copper and copper alloys (+9.1%). Together, they account for almost 80% of Chinese imports from Russia.

Imports from the south-east Asian countries cooled down in May 2022, with an overall decrease of 2% over May 2021: imports from Vietnam, Thailand, and Singapore went down by two-digit figures (respectively -15%, -12.8%, and -15%), while imports from Indonesia performed better, with +43.3% compared to May last year, with larger quantities of ferroalloys, lignite and coal imported from Jakarta.


Trade figures show a decline in the imports from the neighbouring countries of Japan and South Korea, dragged by the fall of imports of electronic integrated circuits: imports from Japan were cut by 13.7%, with a 23.2% drop for integrated circuits. South Korea, the primary source of integrated circuits for Chinese companies, experienced a similar trend: exports of integrated circuits to Beijing (which account for over 40% of total Korean exports to China) fell by 3.1% to USD 6.65 billion from USD 6.87 in May 2021.


Imports from EU partners decreased as well (-9%), with a decline suffered by France (-22.5%), Germany (-6.4%), and the Netherlands (-14.5%). Imports from Italy also dropped by 19.1%, despite the significant increase in imports of pharmaceutical medicaments. Imports of other important made in Italy goods, such as leather products (trunks, suitcases, etc.…) and industrial valves, went down by 46.3% and 22.9%.


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