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Economic and Trade Information on China

Latest Development

  • China’s GDP grew by 6.9% in the first quarter of 2017.

  • The added-value industrial output grew by 7.6% in March 2017, up from 6.3% in Jan-Feb 2017.

  • Fixed assets investment grew by 9.2% in Jan-Mar 2017, up from 8.9% in Jan-Feb 2017.

  • Retail sales increased by 10.9% in March 2017, up from 9.5% in Jan-Feb 2017.

  • Inflation stood at 0.9% in March 2017 with food prices dropped by 4.4%.

  • In March 2017, exports (in terms of US$) grew by 16.4%, while imports (in terms of US$) increased by 20.3%, resulting in a trade surplus of US$23.9 billion.

  • The Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index went up to 51.8 in March 2017 from 51.6 in February 2017.


Major Economic Indicators2016Jan-Mar 2017
ValueGrowth (%)ValueGrowth (%)
Area (sq km, mn)9.69.6
Population (mn)1,382.71,382.7
Gross Domestic Product (RMB bn)74,412.76.7118,068.36.91
Urban Per Capita Disposable Income (RMB)33,6165.619,9866.31
Rural Per Capita Disposable Income (RMB)12,3636.213,8807.21
Fixed Assets Investment2 (RMB bn)59,650.18.19,377.79.2
Added-Value of Industrial Output36.016.81
Consumer Goods Retail Sales (RMB bn)33,231.610.48,582.310.0
Consumer Price Index2.01.4
Exports (US$ bn)2,097.4-7.7482.88.2
Imports (US$ bn)1,587.5-5.5417.224.0
Trade Surplus (US$ bn)509.965.6
Utilised Foreign Direct Investment (US$ bn)126.0-0.220.74-8.1
Foreign Currency Reserves (US$ bn)3,010.5-9.63,009.1-6.3

1 Real growth
2 Urban investments in fixed assets
3 All state-owned and other types of enterprises with annual sales over RMB20 million
4 Jan-Feb 2017

Sources: The National Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Commerce, and General Administration of Customs.


Current Economic Development

The Chinese economy grew by 9.3% in 2011 and slowed to 7.7% in both 2012 and 2013. In 2014 and 2015, GDP grew by 7.3% and 6.9% respectively. Per capita GDP reached RMB49,351 in 2015. In the four quarters of 2016, GDP grew by 6.7% in the first three quarters and 6.8% in the last quarter, resulting in an average growth of 6.7% for 2016. In the first quarter of 2017, GDP grew by 6.9%.

After reducing the reserve requirement ratio five times in 2015, the PBOC cut the reserve requirement by 0.5 percentage points again on 1 March 2016. The base lending rates were cut by 0.25 percentage points each on 1 March 2015, 11 May 2015, 28 June 2015, 26 August 2015 and 24 October 2015.



Chart: Quarterly GDP Growth (China)
Chart: Quarterly GDP Growth (China)
Chart: Fixed Assets Investment Growth (China)
Chart: Fixed Assets Investment Growth (China)


Fixed assets investment is one of the major driving forces of the economy. In 2015, fixed assets investment grew by 10.2%. In 2016, it grew by 8.1%. In Jan-Mar 2017, fixed assets investment grew by 9.2%, up from 8.9% in Jan-Feb 2017.


Chart: Added-value of Industrial Output Growth (China)
Chart: Added-value of Industrial Output Growth (China)
Chart: Changes in CPI (China)
Chart: Changes in CPI (China)


Added-value of industrial output (by large enterprises with annual sales exceeding RMB20 million) grew by 6.1% and 6% respectively in 2015 and 2016. In Jan-Mar 2017, added-value of industrial output grew by 6.8% with foreign-invested enterprises grew by 6.9%.

In 2015, consumer price index (CPI) increased by 1.4% with food prices up by 2.3% and non-food prices up by 1%. In 2016, CPI went up by 2% with food prices up by 4.6% and non-food prices up by 1.4%. In Jan-Mar 2017, CPI went up by 1.4% with food prices dropped by 2.1% and non-food prices up by 2.3%.

In 2015, retail sales grew by 10.7% (real growth at 10.6%). In 2016, retail sales increased by 10.4% (real growth at 9.6%).  In Jan-Mar 2017, retail sales increased by 10% % with sales of household electrical appliances growing at 8%, garments & footwear at 6.2%, furniture at 12.6%, jewellery at 7.9% while automobiles at 2.3%.

China’s Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) (compiled by China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing and China Logistics Information Centre) went up to 51.8 in March 2017 from 51.6 in February 2017.

Money supply - total loan grew at 12.3% in March 2017, down from 12.7% in February 2017 and the growth rate of RMB loans was down from 13% in February 2017 to 12.4% in March 2017.


Chart: Growth of RMB loans (China)
Chart: Growth of RMB loans (China)
Chart: Manufacturing PMI (China)
Chart: Manufacturing PMI (China)


Chart: RMB against the US$ (China)
Chart: RMB against the US$ (China)

China's non-state sector expands rapidly and experiences healthy development in recent years. The status and economic contribution of private enterprises received official recognition in the 9th National People’s Congress held in March 1999. By the end of 2015, there were 19.08 million private-owned enterprises (comparing to 845,520 at end-2010).

Beginning 21 July 2005, China reformed the Renminbi (RMB) exchange rate regime by moving into a managed floating exchange rate system with reference to a basket of currencies, and the exchange rate of RMB was re-valued to 8.11 per US dollar on 21 July 2005. On 21 May 2007, the floating band of RMB against the US dollar was enlarged from 0.3% to 0.5% around the central parity published by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) on each working day. On 16 April 2012, the floating band was expanded to 1% and since 17 March 2014, the floating band has been further expended to 2%. As PBOC modified the RMB exchange rate fixing mechanism, on 13 August 2015, the exchange rate of RMB depreciated to 6.3982 per US dollar from 6.2083 on 10 August 2015. On 17 April 2017, the exchange rate per US dollar stood at 6.8828.

China's foreign exchange reserves stood at US$3,009.1 billion by the end of March 2017, the largest in the world. Foreign debts amounted to US$1,420.7 billion at the end of 2016, of which 39% was medium- or long-term debts and 61% was short-term debts. The debt service ratio stood at 6% in 2016.

Foreign Trade and Investment

In 2015, China's total external trade reached US$3,956 billion, ranked the first in the world. In 2016, exports and imports dropped by 7.7% and 5.5% (in terms of US$) respectively, resulting in a trade surplus of US$509.9 billion.


Chart: Growth of Trade (China)
Chart: Growth of Trade (China)
Chart: Trade Balance (China)
Chart: Trade Balance (China)


The share of export-processing trade is declining in recent years. Export-processing trade accounted for 51% of China's total exports in 2007, but dropped to 34% in 2016. In 2016, exports of processing trade dropped by 10.3%.

In Jan-Dec 2016, exports of electrical and electronic products dropped by 7.7% (In US$ terms), exports of garment and footwear dropped by 9.6% and 12.1% respectively.  In Jan-Mar 2017, exports of electrical and electronic products grew 8.6% (In US$ terms), exports of garment decreased by 0.1% while footwear grew by 6%.

In 2016, China's top ten export markets were US, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Vietnam, India, Netherlands, UK and Singapore. China's total exports with these ten economies together accounted for about 58.8% of China's total exports in 2016.

In 2016, exports of foreign-invested enterprises (FIEs) declined by 8.7%, accounting for 43.7% of China’s total exports, and imports dropped by 7%, representing 48.5% of China’s total imports.

By the end of 2016, China approved a cumulative of 864,304 foreign investment projects, with actual utilised overseas FDI amounting to US$1,765.5 billion. The leading sources of investment included Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, the US, South Korea, UK and Germany.

In 2014, FDI made by Chinese enterprises in overseas markets stood at US$123.1 billion (+14.2%). In 2015, China’s outward FDI grew by 18.3% to US$145.7 billion, ranked as the second largest source after the US. As at end-2015, China’s stock of outward FDI reached US$1,097.9 billion, ranked the eighth in the world. Business services (mainly investment holdings), financial services, wholesale and retail, mining and manufacturing are the leading sectors of China's outward FDI.

Economic Relations with Hong Kong

The Chinese mainland and Hong Kong signed the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) on 29 June 2003 and supplemented with further liberalisation measures in subsequent years. At present, all products of Hong Kong origin can be imported into the mainland tariff free under CEPA. For products which have no agreed CEPA rules of origin at present, Hong Kong will initiate discussions with the mainland twice a year upon requests by local manufacturers. Hong Kong service suppliers enjoy preferential treatment in entering into the mainland market in various service areas. There are also agreements or arrangements on mutual recognition of professional qualification. On 18 December 2014, the Agreement on Achieving Basic Liberalization of Trade in Services in Guangdong was signed and to be implemented on 1 March 2015. The Agreement adopts a hybrid approach of positive and negative lists to set out the liberalisation measures in the Guangdong province applying to Hong Kong. The breadth and depth of liberalisation surpass the previous measures for early and pilot implementation in Guangdong. On the basis of the Guangdong Agreement, the Agreement on Trade in Services was signed on 27 November 2015 and to be implemented on 1 June 2016, extending the geographical coverage to the whole Mainland for basic liberalisation of trade in services.


Hong Kong's Direct Investment in the Chinese Mainland

Projects, contracted and utilised direct investment 20161979-2016
Share of the
national total (%)
Share of the
national total (%)
Number of approved projects12,75345.7386,46444.7
Utilised direct investment (US$ bn)81.564.7913.751.8

Sources: China Monthly Statistics


Hong Kong is the largest source of overseas direct investment in the Chinese Mainland. By the end of 2016, among all the overseas-funded projects approved in the Chinese Mainland, 44.7% were tied to Hong Kong interests. Cumulative utilised capital inflow from Hong Kong amounted to US$913.7 billion, accounting for 51.8% of the national total. Hong Kong is also the leading destination for China’s FDI outflow. According to Chinese statistics, by 2015, the stock of FDI going to Hong Kong accumulated to US$656.9 billion, or 59.8% of the total outflow of FDI.

Chinese Mainland is one of the leading sources of inward investment in Hong Kong. According to Hong Kong statistics, the stock of Hong Kong's inward investment from the Chinese mainland amounted to US$419 billion at market value or 26.5% of the total at the end of 2015. As of December 2016, 1,002 mainland companies were listed in Hong Kong, comprising H-share, red-chip and private companies with total market capitalisation of around US$2 trillion, or 63% of the market total.

Hong Kong's Trade with the Chinese Mainland[1]

Hong Kong was the Mainland's second largest trading partner (after the US) in 2016. According to China's Customs Statistics, bilateral trade between the Mainland and Hong Kong amounted to US$304.6 billion (8.3% of the Mainland's total external trade) in 2016. Of which exports from the Chinese Mainland to Hong Kong stood at US$287.7 billion, making Hong Kong the second largest export market.

The Mainland has been Hong Kong's largest trading partner since 1985. Share of the Mainland in Hong Kong's global trade jumped from 9.3% in 1978 to 50.8% in 2016. The Chinese Mainland was Hong Kong’s largest import source accounting for 47.8% of Hong Kong’s total imports, and the largest export market accounting for 54.2% of Hong Kong’s total exports in 2016.

Hong Kong's trade with the Chinese Mainland is to a large extent related to outward processing activities. In Jan-Sep 2016, 27.9% of Hong Kong's total exports to the Chinese Mainland were related to outward processing activities. Meanwhile, 39.4% of Hong Kong’s imports from the Mainland and 71.3% of Hong Kong's re-exports of the Mainland origin to all countries were related to outward processing.


Hong Kong's Trade with the Chinese Mainland

(US$ million)
2016Jan-Feb 2017
Total exports249,1630.4136,83210.61
   Domestic exports2,380-9.213315.91
Total Trade494,910-1.5171,4768.61
Trade Balance3,4152,188

Sources: Census & Statistics Department of Hong Kong

[1]  Since offshore trade has not been captured by ordinary trade figures, these numbers do not necessary reflect the total business managed by Hong Kong companies.

Content provided by Picture: Billy Wong
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