China’s foreign trade up 5.7% in first 4 months

China’s total imports and exports of goods expanded 5.7 percent year-on-year in the first four months of this year to 13.81 trillion yuan ($1.91 trillion), data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Thursday.

From January to April, exports grew 4.9 percent year-on-year to 7.81 trillion yuan, while imports rose 6.8 percent to 6 trillion yuan, the data showed.

Private businesses, as evidenced by the data, have played a bigger role in fueling the growth of foreign trade in goods. During the period, the trade value of private enterprises took up 54.6 percent of the total, up 2.5 percentage points from the same period last year, while that of the foreign-invested enterprises constituted 29.1 percent.

Thursday’s data also pointed to an uptick in China’s imports and exports to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the United States.

In the first four months, China’s trade with its largest trade partner, ASEAN, rose 8.5 percent year-on-year to 2.18 trillion yuan, accounting for 15.8 percent of the country’s total trade value.

The country’s trade in goods with its third-largest trade partner, the US, grew 1.1 percent to 1.47 trillion yuan during the period, while that with the European Union, its second-largest trade partner, edged down 1.8 percent year-on-year.

Highlights of China’s trade in goods during the January-April period include a robust increase in exports of machinery and electronic products, accounting for nearly 60 percent of the country’s total exports during the period.

In particular, the export value of automatic data processing equipment, integrated circuits and vehicles, surged 9.7 percent, 23.5 percent and 24.9 percent year-on-year, respectively, during the period, the data showed.

Ample China-Saudi synergy shown as Aramco seeks Hengli Petrochemical stake

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Saudi oil giant Aramco said on Monday it is in talks with Hengli Group to acquire a 10 percent stake in a subsidiary of the Chinese firm that specializes in refining and petrochemicals. The negotiations mark the latest efforts by Aramco to bolster its downstream presence in China.

Middle East investors looking to gain more exposure in China are increasingly attracted to the nation’s fast-growing consumer market and abundant opportunities for supply chain cooperation. Aramco’s case serves as a good example of this trend.

With a memorandum of understanding signed between Aramco and Hengli, the Saudi oil giant stated that the deal aligns with its strategy to expand its downstream presence in key high-value markets, advance its liquids-to-chemicals program and secure long-term crude oil supply agreements.

The global shift toward a low-carbon economy poses a threat to energy companies’ business models and long-term profitability, prompting them to enhance their competitiveness through innovation. Take the example of Aramco, observers believe that China is becoming increasingly important for Aramco’s ambitions to convert 4 million barrels per day of its oil production into higher-value chemicals. That is why the Saudi oil giant has been closely monitoring opportunities in China’s petrochemical industry.

In 2023, Aramco acquired a 10 percent stake in Shenzhen-listed Rongsheng Petrochemical. Aramco’s joint-venture company, Huajin Aramco Petrochemical Co, announced last year that it planned to start construction of a major integrated refinery and petrochemical complex in Northeast China.

As these efforts continue to advance, cooperation between China and Saudi Arabia has seen diversified development beyond traditional energy trade. Saudi Deputy Minister of Investment Saleh Khabti was quoted by the Xinhua News Agency in October 2023 as saying that China has strengths in infrastructure, high-tech and logistics, so the possibilities of the two countries’ business cooperation are “unlimited.”

Saleh Khabti also mentioned that Saudi Arabia’s investment in China more than doubled in 2023 and Saudi Arabia is open to Chinese investors.

Saudi Arabia has also become a focus of investment by Chinese companies. The economic structures of the two countries are highly complementary. China is a major energy importer with a mature manufacturing sector and a complete industrial chain. Saudi Arabia’s economy is undergoing a transformation, as it implements reforms to reduce its oil dependence, invests in the downstream petrochemicals industry and diversifies its income sources.

This expanding and diversified bilateral cooperation is a clear example of how China remains an important market and investment destination for Middle East investors, despite some Western media outlets spreading a false narrative that China’s attractiveness to foreign investment has declined. 

Cooperation between China and the Middle East is primarily focused on common development, without any conspiracies or political motivations. This partnership aligns with the regional economic development needs and will inject new driving forces into the economic and social development.

China’s high-level economic opening-up includes increased institutional openness, expanded market access and improved services for foreign investors. As China continues to further open its doors to foreign enterprises and attract more investment from other countries, it will facilitate the opening-up of sectors such as energy, refining and petrochemicals to create more trade and investment opportunities for foreign investors.

For some time, there have been reports and comments in Western media outlets hyping claims of “foreign capital fleeing China.” These reports do not match the facts. With China continuously improving the quality of investment and promoting the development of mutually beneficial cooperation, it is moving toward high-quality development.

Aramco’s enthusiasm for China’s market serves as evidence of China’s good performance in attracting foreign investment and accelerating development. China will follow its own speed and rhythm in opening up its economy to foreign investors. 

Western observers don’t need to point fingers at China, because their biased narratives that “foreign capital is fleeing China” won’t affect China’s attractiveness to foreign investment.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. [email protected]

Shanghai, Beijing, other cities improve foreigners’ payment service

Mobile payment Photo:VCG

Mobile payment Photo:VCG

Major Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai have stepped up efforts to improve means of payment for foreign travelers, a move to promote inbound tourism and high-level opening-up. 

Shanghai, frequently picked up by overseas visitors as their first stop to China for business, study or sightseeing, will optimize payment service linked with bank cards, promote the use of cash and facilitate mobile payment to meet the diverse preferences of foreigners, Hua Yuan, vice mayor of Shanghai, told a press conference on Thursday.

“We have improved the cross-border payment functions of UnionPay, Alipay and WeChat Pay to facilitate mobile payments on the side of Chinese merchants. UnionPay can support users of more than 180 overseas wallets to make payments, and Alipay can support e-wallets from 10 countries and regions to make payments in China, Hua said.

In terms of bank cards, the city has newly opened more than 37,000 foreign card point-of-sale (POS) terminals, covering sites of commerce, culture and tourism, and airports. 

The total number of foreign bank card POS swipes, and the per customer transaction value in Shanghai are both leading other cities in the Chinese mainland, said Hua.

Shanghai also has a large number of yuan cash withdrawal or exchange outlets, including more than 8,000 automatic teller machines (ATMs), over 3,500 Chinese bank outlets, and 183 foreign currency exchange outlets.

Hua said that Shanghai will promote the full coverage of foreign card withdrawals of yuan cash from ATMs stationed in the city.

On Tuesday, the Beijing municipal government released an action plan to optimize its payment services. 

The capital city will continue to improve the user-friendly level and convenience of payments such as mobile payments, bank cards and cash. As of the end of December, the city will have basically solved the payment difficulties of elderly people, foreigners coming to Beijing and other groups.

“In Shanghai, everything can be paid for by using a QR code – this is very different from my home. It’s super convenient,” an Australian tourist who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Thursday.

“It makes Shanghai feel much more international and connected. It also helps in keeping track of how much you spend – which is great for a shopaholic like me,” the tourist said.

Alejandra Clemente Romagnoli, a tourist from Mexico who has visited Shanghai, told the Global Times that she usually uses Alipay or WeChat Pay, and the accounts are associated with her Chinese bank cards. 

“It is very easy to use mobile payments. Just take your cellphone and go out. In Mexico, I had to carry cash and a bank card,” she said.

The two cities’ moves came after China released on March 7 a guideline to better meet the payment needs of foreigners, which experts said is conducive to boosting domestic consumption while demonstrating the country’s commitment to high-level opening-up.

“By installing new foreign card POS machines and promoting the facilitation of payments, these cities have provided a more convenient and efficient payment environment for foreign tourists,” Wang Peng, an associate research fellow at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday.

“These measures have also promoted consumption and expanded domestic demand, further boosting China’s economic growth,” Wang said.

Wang added that a convenient and efficient payment environment can reduce the transaction costs of enterprises and improve the efficiency of capital utilization, enhancing competitiveness.

By promoting payment facilitation, China can enhance its attractiveness in the international investment market and attract more foreign investment, he said.

China to assist foreign visitors by simplifying bank card binding with domestic payment system

Online payment app Illustration: VCG

Illustration: VCG

China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MCT) vowed on Friday to further accelerate optimization of the payment environment for foreign visitors with the assistance of the People’s Bank of China, the central bank.

It was a quick move after a guideline released by the State Council, the cabinet, earlier this month that called for more effective and more convenient payment services for foreign visitors.

Shi Zeyi, an official with the MCT, said during a press conference that the process for binding foreign visitors’ bank cards to the domestic mobile payment system is complex, which is the major problem at the moment. However, there are digital wallet products in both domestic and foreign markets and it is feasible for them to be connected, Shi noted.

“Mobile phone-based mobile payment systems have become popular in China and nearly all daily life needs can be addressed with a mobile phone,” he said. But the mobile payment system in some foreign countries is still developing, making payment in China less convenient for foreign visitors.

The MCT is now conducting research with payment companies and platforms to resolve technical issues and is also making efforts to reduce the required registration information when foreign visitors bind their bank cards, as well as raising the limits for mobile payment.

In the first two months of this year, the entry and exit of foreigners to and from China reached 2.95 million, an increase of 2.3 times from the previous period and equivalent to 41.5 percent of the volume before the pandemic, said the MCT.

During the Spring Festival holidays, visitors from countries that have a visa-free policy with China, including France, Germany, Malaysia and Singapore, saw a significant increase.

Global Times

Over half of Chinese companies in Australia profitable in 2023: CCPIT report

China Australia File photo

China Australia File photo

Chinese companies that have operations in Australia reported steady growth in 2023, with 57.5 percent of firms surveyed saying they made a profit last year. Meanwhile, they called on the Australian government to provide a sound business environment for foreign companies and ensure fair competition, according to a report by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) published on Friday.

China and Australia’s economies are highly complementary, and share great potential. Australia is an important overseas market for Chinese companies, Yang Fan, a spokesperson for the CCPIT, said at a press conference in Beijing on Friday.

A report conducted by the council showed that the operations of Chinese-funded enterprises in Australia showed steady growth in 2023, with 57.5 percent of the companies surveyed saying that they had reported a profit, Yang said. Meanwhile, about 45.4 percent of the surveyed companies said that they plan to expand their business presence in Australia.

Over recent years, Australia has rolled out a series of policies in terms of industrial innovation and digital capability, which contributed to the improvement of Australia’s business environment. In the survey, 37.6 percent of Chinese companies said Australia’s business environment is relatedly good, according to the report.

Chinese companies said that they expect the Australian government to enhance the fairness of rules of standards in areas including market entry of foreign enterprises, anti-monopoly and cyber security, and lower the entry threshold and compliance cost for foreign enterprises, it said.

In addition, they also called on the Australian government to improve access for foreign investment, and use trade remedy tools reasonably to build a sound business environment for foreign enterprises, said the report.

With 2024 marking the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the comprehensive strategic partnership between China-New Zealand and China-Australia, the CCPIT plans to organize entrepreneurs to visit the two countries to promote trade and investment activities, Yang said.

China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) announced on Thursday a decision to cancel anti-dumping and anti-subsidy tariffs levied on Australian wine, effective on Friday.

Since taking office in 2022, the Albanese government has remedied its predecessor’s irrational anti-China policies, prompting a positive response from the Chinese side. Hence, bilateral ties have gradually bottomed out and stabilized.

During Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s latest visit to Canberra, he said the two sides should build on the sound momentum of bilateral relations, “work together for the future,” and take a more active attitude to jointly build a more mature, stable and fruitful comprehensive strategic partnership.

“Independence should also be an important principle of Australia’s foreign policy. The development of China-Australia relations does not target any third party, nor should it be influenced or disturbed by any third party,” Wang said.

Global Times

More provinces are running fairs to further attract and utilize foreign investment

A city view of Guangzhou in South China's Guangdong Province Photo: VCG

A city view of Guangzhou in South China’s Guangdong Province Photo: VCG

China is doubling down on efforts to attract foreign investment as more provinces are running fairs to further attract and utilize foreign investment over coming days, reflecting China’s determination to further opening-up. 

China’s recent measures related to opening-up and upcoming events have offered a clear path forward for operation and investment in China, according to multiple CEOs from global companies when contacted by the Global Times, and Chinese market watchers said that China’s attraction to foreign investment remains strong.

Guangzhou, South China’s Guangdong Province will hold a global investment conference from April 8 to 9. Focusing on developing new quality productive forces, the conference has attracted more than 2,000 guests including representatives from more than 300 global companies, and they will conduct communications around digital economy, green energy, intelligent manufacturing and biomedicine, according to the Guangzhou Municipal Commerce Bureau on Tuesday. 

The upcoming China International Consumer Products Expo, which will be held from April 13 to 18 in Haikou, South China’s Hainan Province, is expected to welcome more than 3,000 brands from 59 countries and regions.

The event will be China’s first significant international expo this year, as the country continues to promote consumption growth, according to the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM). 

These activities have sent a clear signal that the Chinese government welcomes and supports foreign investors to invest in China, Guo Tao, an industry analyst told the Global Times.


China not only shows the potential and opportunities of its market, but also its determination to improve the business environment and strengthen international cooperation. This has a positive effect on enhancing the investment willingness of multinational companies, Guo added.

Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc, exchanges business cards with participants at the China Development Forum 2024 in Beijing, on March 24, 2024. About 400 people, including experts, entrepreneurs, government officials and representatives of international organizations, attended the opening ceremony of the forum. Photo: VCG

Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc, exchanges business cards with participants at the China Development Forum 2024 in Beijing, on March 24, 2024. About 400 people, including experts, entrepreneurs, government officials and representatives of international organizations, attended the opening ceremony of the forum. Photo: VCG

Those events also came after a series of activities of promoting high-quality opening-up by Chinese governments following the China Development Forum concluded on March 25 which attracted around 400 guests from global companies and institutions. 

On April 1, MOFCOM held a roundtable in Chongqing with 26 foreign companies including Intel and BASF, after a roundtable was held with 12 Danish enterprises in Beijing on March 29.

MOFCOM vows to promote the development of Danish enterprises in China on the back of supportive policies, and Danish representatives also expressed optimism about Chinese market potential and were committed to further strengthening investment and cooperation with China.

Chinese experts also said that high-tech and high value-added industries have become a new driving force for the transformation and upgrade of China’s economy, which provides new investment opportunities for foreign capital.

Mats Harborn, president of Scania China Group told the Global Times that the company is developing deep relationships with Chinese suppliers to tap into the exciting, new technological innovations happening in China, such as electrification, autonomous driving and connected intelligent vehicles.

French multinational software company Dassault Systèmes said that Chinese government’s recent initiatives to attract foreign investment and improve the business environment have bolstered their confidence in China’s market potential. 

By closely collaborating with our Chinese partners and leveraging our expertise in digital technologies, we aim to transform challenges into opportunities, said Samson Khaou, Executive Vice President for Asia-Pacific at Dassault Systèmes.

A number of foreign investors are also expanding in the Chinese market, reflecting confidence in China’s economic growth.

On March 27, US memory chip giant Micron Technology’s new plant in Xi’an, Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province officially broke ground. 

Apple opened its new store to large crowds in Shanghai on March 21 with a reported impressive investment of over 83.4 million yuan ($11.54 million). On the same day, Panasonic signed a deal to produce eco-friendly integrated circuit products in Suzhou, East China’s Jiangsu Province. Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca on March 1 announced to invest $475 million in a new drug factory in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province.

To further attract foreign investment, in March, China’s State Council, the cabinet issued 24 measures, which included targeted moves including expanding market access in the high-tech and financial sectors, facilitating cross-border data flows and promoting international business travel.

“The action plan demonstrates the government’s determination to remain an integral part of the global economy, which bodes well for foreign investors engaging in long-term business in China,” Harborn said. 

China is opening wider and wider to the world, and China’s mega-market will bring enormous opportunities to the world. Our message to businesses around the world: invest in China, flourish in China and succeed in China,Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.  

In the first two months of 2024, China’s high-tech manufacturing has utilized 28.27 billion yuan of foreign capital, up 10.1 percent from a year ago, data from MOFCOM showed.

China expected to see another tourism boom during Qingming, as solid recovery becomes ‘bright spot’

Tourists enjoy sunbathing and kites fly in the sky at an ocean park in Rizhao, East China's Shandong Province on Monday. The park saw visitors peak during the Qingming Festival holiday from Saturday to Monday. Photo: VCG

Tourists enjoy sunbathing and kites fly in the sky at an ocean park in Rizhao, East China’s Shandong Province during the Qingming Festival holiday. Photo: VCG

China is expected to welcome another tourism boom during the upcoming Qingming Festival holidays, with remarkable growth in travel and hotel bookings, according to major online booking platforms on Tuesday, further pointing to the strong recovery of consumer sentiment and consumption, a critical barometer of China’s economic vitality. 

The strong travel data expected during the three-day holidays come on the heels of an increasing number of robust economic indicators, ranging from manufacturing activity to foreign trade, all painting a rosy picture of China’s economic recovery. China’s solid economic recovery has become a bright spot for the world economy, a Chinese official said on Tuesday.

The expanding set of strong data for the first three months of 2024 has significantly lifted expectations for a more consolidated economic recovery in China for the rest of the year, while the stream of global business executives and officials visiting China show full confidence in China’s economic resilience and prospects, defying Western smear campaigns against China’s economy, experts said. 

Spring tourism boom 

The Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Festival, is when Chinese people traditionally visit cemeteries and pay tribute to their deceased loved ones. This year the festival falls on Thursday, when the three-day holiday begins. In addition to traditional activities, many Chinese are keen to travel, as the holidays come amid the warm spring temperatures, as revealed by the strong booking figures. 

On Qunar, a Chinese online travel platform, bookings for air tickets and hotels in the past week surged 140 percent over the previous week. “Many places across the country are experiencing a tourism boom,” Qunar told the Global Times on Tuesday, noting that the number of bookings of air tickets to small cities has more than doubled that of the same period last year. 

On Tujia, a short-term lodging rental platform, as of March 25, bookings for homestays in some popular cities have increased 340 percent year-on-year, according to a report the platform sent to the Global Times on Tuesday. Notably, Tianshui in Northwest China’s Gansu Province, which has become an internet sensation for its local delicacy
malatang – a spicy broth served with different ingredients in a bowl –  is seeing a 50-fold increase in bookings for homestays. “The national tourism market has ushered in a small spring tourism peak,” the report said.  

“I think the number of people traveling during this year’s Qingming Festival holidays will be relatively large,” Zhou Mi, a senior research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times on Tuesday, pointing to a strong consumption recovery so far this year and improving consumer sentiment. 

The latest official data show that China’s retail sales, a main gauge of consumption, surged by 5.5 percent year-on-year in the first two months of 2024, beating market expectations. Notably, online retail sales jumped 15.3 percent year-on-year during the period, according to official data. 

In addition to strong retail sales, a slew of recent data point to a solid economic recovery. On Monday, a private survey showed that China’s factory activity expanded for a fifth consecutive month in March and at the fastest pace in a year, beating market expectations. On Sunday, the official manufacturing PMI came in at 50.8, returning to expansion territory for the first time since September 2023. Meanwhile, China’s exports, another major growth driver, jumped by 10.3 percent in the first two months of 2024.

Commenting on the strong economic data on Tuesday, Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said that various indicators have sent positive signals of China’s economic recovery and improved global expectations for China’s economic performance in 2024. 

“China’s economy has got off to a good start this year, which has become a bright spot for the global economy,” Wang told a regular press briefing, while also noting recent intensive visits by more than 100 executives of multinational companies showed their full confidence in China’s economic resilience and prospects.  

Rising global confidence

In a whirlwind week of China economic diplomacy, scores of foreign government officials, business leaders and scholars visited China in the past two weeks to attend the back-to-back China Development Forum (CDF) in Beijing and the Boao Forum for Asia in South China’s Hainan Province. Notably, nearly 100 global CEOs attended the CDF, with more than 30 coming from the US. High-level Chinese officials also met with the visiting foreign business leaders. 

“At the CDF and a series of Invest in China events, we saw very positive responses from foreign businesses, which shows their improving confidence in investing in China,” Zhou said, noting China’s increasingly consolidated recovery and continuous opening-up are sources of confidence for foreign businesses. 

Further highlighting growing interests in business ties with China, many foreign government officials and business leaders are continuing to visit China. Notably, San Francisco Mayor London Breed is expected to visit China from April 13 to April 21, where she will “cultivate economic opportunities and strengthen ties between San Francisco and cities across the region.” This is significant given that the US federal government has been trying relentlessly to undermine business ties between the two countries. 

In addition to visits by US local officials and business leaders who are seeking to boost business ties with China, China’s exports to and trade surplus with the US surged in the first two months of 2024 despite Washington’s trade protectionism and restrictions. Total exports jumped by 8.1 percent year-on-year, while the trade surplus expanded by 18.8 percent year-on-year, according to official data. 

“The expanding trade surplus is certainly a positive thing,” He Weiwen, a senior fellow from the Center for China and Globalization, told the Global Times on Tuesday, adding that in addition to expanding trade, China is also firmly pushing forward opening-up to attract foreign investment. “The policy is very clear.”

China has taken a slew of measures to improve the business environment and expand market access for foreign investment, including plans to lift all restrictions on foreign investment in the manufacturing sector and reduce restrictions in the services sector. 

China’s solid economic recovery and its continuous opening-up offer a powerful rebuttal for Western officials and media outlets that have been relentlessly smearing China’s economy and its environment for foreign investors with claims such as “Peak China,” experts said. 

“I personally feel that some of these claims do not have much basis in fact,” Zhou said, noting that China’s economic recovery has become much more pronounced and China is working with foreign partners to explore more trade and investment opportunities in new areas.

Meanwhile, He said that foreign media hype about “Peak China” does not warrant much attention, and the focus for China should be taking concrete steps to improve the business environment and address foreign businesses’ concerns to attract more foreign investment.