China's 2017 trade boost shows shifting engines of growth

Chinese employees work in a high-end leather goods factory in Chengdu Sichuan Province China on November 21. File

Chinese employees work in a high-end leather goods factory in Chengdu Sichuan Province China on November 21. File

Yuan-denominated imports rose 18.7 percent previous year, which produced a trade surplus of 2.87 trillion yuan.

The European Union, US and ASEAN remain China's top three trade partners, representing almost 42 percent of the total volume, while trade with Russia, Poland and Kazakhstan saw rapid growth of between 20 and 40 percent due to the new Silk Road scheme.

China held a $275.9-billion trade surplus with the US last year, up roughly 10% from 2016. Imports soared 15.9% to $1.84 trillion, the strongest increase in six years.

Foreign trade has become one of China's most dynamic and fastest-growing sectors, placing the country among the world's leading traders during the past decade.

Trump campaigned on a promise to get tough on Chinese trade practices, but he pulled his punches past year.

President Donald Trump's administration faces a series of decisions in coming weeks on whether to enact penalties on imports of Chinese solar panels and steel and aluminum products.

China's imports from North Korea plunged in December to their lowest level in dollar terms since at least the start of 2014, with trade curbed by United Nations sanctions aimed at persuading Pyongyang to abandon its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.

Chinese officials have threatened retaliation for any US penalties in closed-door meetings with American officials and companies.

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In an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, before the latest trade figures were published, Mr. Trump suggested he would have resorted to sterner measures to correct the trade imbalance with China if it weren't for Beijing's help in pressuring North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons development.

The "continued strength of China's exports to the bound to add to U.S".

A day before, the Chinese Commerce Ministry's spokesman sounded a defensive note to reporters about China's trade and said that the "inevitable" frictions should be resolved through negotiation.

China's trade figures don't match USA figures due to different calculation methods. Imports for the year jumped 16% to USD1.8 trillion, while exports rose 7.9% to almost USD2.3 trillion, the General Administration of Customs said.

"Export growth declined slightly last month but remained healthy".

"LNG imports last month reached new highs according to our cargo monitoring and pipeline imports from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan also ramped from previous month", said Diao Zhouwei, analyst of IHS Markit.

Other data from the Chinese government indicate substantial improvement in growth from 2016.

Recently, under heavy pressure from Washington, the world's second-largest economy has been increasingly clamping down on its historical ally.

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