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Jan. 15, 2021, 11:20 a.m. EST

Chinese exports shot to a record high in 2020 as the world economy sank

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By Pierre Briançon

China exported more to the rest of the world last year than ever before, despite the global COVID-19 pandemic-related recession, figures from the country’s customs administration showed on Thursday . The trade surplus hit a historic high of $78 billion in December.

Read: Two turned away as WHO team begins investigating pandemic’s origins in Wuhan

The outlook: Economists expect China’s exports growth to slow in the coming months if and when western economies manage to control the COVID-19 pandemic’s second wave and resume normal activity. But, as shown by the rise of imports, China’s domestic market and the country’s consumers may then help sustain growth — if that happens.

The strength and resilience of the Chinese economy would then be a blessing for recovering Europe and the U.S., whose exporters will benefit from a fast-growing market. That should help soften a possible protectionist backlash, especially since the administration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is unlikely to be as strident about Chinese trade as its predecessor.

From the archives (December 2020): China’s ‘unstoppable’ global luxury-market share nearly doubles amid pandemic

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