Rising container throughput indicates vitality of China’s foreign trade

By Ju Yunpeng, People’s Daily

Stacks of containers piled up on Chinese ports reflect China’s robust foreign trade, releasing a signal of rapid recovery of the Chinese economy.

China’s foreign trade of goods created a new annual record of 32.16 trillion yuan ($4.96 trillion) in 2020 despite the global economic downturn last year, during which the global trade of goods dropped 5.6 percent year on year.

This highlighted the resilience and vitality of the Chinese economy. China has not only withstood the pressure test, but also boosted the confidence of the world in global recovery.

Impacted by COVID-19, container throughput of Shanghai port decreased 8.4 percent year on year in the first 4 months of 2020. However, the world’s largest automated container terminal has today regained its hustle and bustle. Last year, the container throughput of the terminal hit a new record of 43.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), leaving a remarkable “v-shape” bounce.

Apart from Shanghai, major coastal cities such as Ningbo, Tianjin, Qingdao and Dalian also witnessed busy scenes at their ports.

In addition, containers carrying foreign trade commodities were also thriving in land transport. In 2020, China-Europe freight trains made over 10,000 trips, constantly transporting Chinese medical supplies, auto parts and electronic products to foreign destinations. Given the lifted transport price of ocean shipping, the containerized freight index has been on a rise. The China containerized freight index reached 1,863.84 points in mid-January this year, about 1,000 points higher compared with the average figure reported in May 2020.

“We worried about the stacked containers in the first half last year, but now there aren’t enough trucks carrying them,” said a container manufacturer. What the manufacturer said mirrors the prosperous business in China nowadays.

The robust recovery of foreign trade comes from the strength of international logistics, and also stable industrial and supply chains. For instance, to satisfy the demand of the international market calls for joint efforts made by the supply end and the whole industrial chain. In south China’s Guangdong province, a foreign trade enterprise engaged in home appliance business is currently running at full capacity. This is attributed to the hard work of all its employees, and also the coordination from its suppliers.

Relying on the super large market and a complete industrial system, China has rapidly alleviated the short supply of raw materials and straightened domestic and overseas logistics, so as to ensure the recovery of all links on the industrial and supply chains and lay a solid foundation for foreign trade to regain stability.

From achieving major strategic achievements in COVID-19 control to effectively resuming work across the country, and to issuing a series of policies to stabilize the foreign trade sector, science-based decisions and targeted measures are the source of China’s confidence to offset the impacts from COVID-19 on foreign trade.

After 31 rounds of negotiations over eight years, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the world’s biggest trade pact was inked at the end of the last year. As an important platform for China to open wider, the pact will further optimize China’s foreign trade and improve the value of the country’s free trade zones.

In the future, the restructuring of global industrial chain will keep on accelerating, and the pandemic will also trigger a series of risks, which poses uncertainties for foreign trade. We have every reason to believe that China’s door will only open wider, and the country will further consolidate its advantages in foreign trade, expand development space and make even brighter prospects of the Chinese economy.