China trade tumbles in May, adding to signs economic recovery is slowing

Zainab Ashraf
07 Jun 2023
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Representative Image

Beijing: China's exports fell 7.5 per cent from a year earlier in May and imports were down 4.5 per cent, adding to signs an economic rebound following the end of anti-virus controls is slowing as global demand weakens under pressure from higher interest rates.


Exports slid to USD 283.5 billion, reversing from April's unexpectedly strong 8.5per cent growth, customs data showed Wednesday. Imports fell to USD 217.7 billion, moderating from the previous month's 7.9 per cent contraction.

China's global trade surplus narrowed by 16.1 per cent to USD 65.8 billion.

Trade weakness adds to downward pressure on the world's second-largest economy following lackluster factory and consumer activity and a surge in unemployment among young people.


Factory output and consumer spending revived after controls that cut off access to major cities for weeks at a time and blocked most international travel were lifted in December. But forecasters say the peak of that rebound probably has passed.

Retail spending is recovering more slowly than expected because jittery consumers worry about the economic outlook and possible job losses.

A government survey in April found a record 1 in 5 young workers in cities were unemployed.


Factory activity is contracting and employers are cutting jobs after interest rate hikes to cool inflation in the United States and Europe depressed demand for Chinese exports.

Exports to the United States tumbled 18.2per cent from a year earlier to USD 42.5 billion after the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark lending rate to a 16-year high to curb surging inflation by slowing business and consumer activity.

Imports of American goods sank 9.9 per cent to USD 14.3 billion. China's politically volatile trade surplus with the United States narrowed by 21.9per cent to USD 28.1 billion.


China's economic growth accelerated to 4.5 per cent over a year earlier in the three months ending in March from the previous quarter's 2.9 per cent.

It would need to accelerate further to reach the ruling Communist Party's official growth target of "around 5per cent" for the year.

For the year to date, imports fell 6.7 per cent from the same five-month period of 2022 to just over USD 1 trillion, while export growth fell close to zero. Exports edged up 0.3 per cent to USD 1.4 trillion.


Imports from Russia, mostly oil and gas, rose 10per cent over a year ago to USD 11.3 billion. Exports to Russia surged 114 per cent to USD 9.3 billion.

China is buying more Russian energy to take advantage of price cuts, helping to shore up the Kremlin's cash flow after the United States, Europe and Japan cut off most purchases to punish Moscow for President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

Beijing can buy Russian oil and gas without triggering Western sanctions.


China has become Russia's biggest export market and an important source of manufactured goods.

Also in May, China's imports from the 27-nation European Union fell 38.6 per cent to USD 24.5 billion. Exports to Europe fell 26.6 per cent to USD 44.6 billion. Beijing's trade surplus with Europe narrowed by 3per cent to USD20.1 billion. (AP)