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Economic and Trade Information on China

Latest Development

  • China’s GDP grew by 6.8% and 6.7% in the first and second quarter of 2018 respectively. In the third quarter of 2018, GDP grew by 6.5%.

  • The added-value industrial output grew by 5.9% in October 2018, up from 5.8% in September 2018.

  • Fixed assets investment grew by 5.7% between Jan-Oct 2018, slightly up from 5.4% between Jan-Sep 2018.

  • Retail sales increased by 9.2% between Jan-Oct 2018, slightly down from 9.3% between Jan-Sep 2018.

  • Inflation stood at 2.5% in October 2018, with food prices increased by 3.3% and non-food prices increased by 2.4%.

  • In October 2018, exports (in terms of US$) increased by15.6%, while imports (in terms of US$) increased by 21.4%, resulting in a trade surplus of US$34.0 billion.

  • The Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index down from 50.8 in September 2018 to 50.2 in October 2018.


Major Economic Indicators2017Jan-Oct 2018
ValueGrowth (%)ValueGrowth (%)
Population (mn)1,390.11,390.1
Gross Domestic Product (RMB bn)82,712.26.9165,089.946.71
GDP Per Capita (RMB)59,6606.31
Fixed Assets Investment2 (RMB bn)63,168.47.254,756.75.7
Added-Value of Industrial Output36.616.41
Consumer Goods Retail Sales (RMB bn)36,626.210.230,983.49.2
Consumer Price Index1.62.1
Exports (US$ bn)2,263.57.92,044.812.6
mports (US$ bn)1,841.015.91,790.620.3
Trade Surplus (US$ bn)422.5254.2
Utilised Foreign Direct Investment (US$ bn)
Foreign Currency Reserves (US$ bn)3,139.94.33,053.1-1.8

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-Sep 2018

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


Major International Ranking

  • According to the World Bank, China is the second-largest economy in the world, behind the United States, ahead of Japan.

  • According to UNCTAD World Investment Report, China became the second-largest recipients of FDI inflows (USD 136 billion) in the world in 2017 (up from the 6th in 2007), behind the United States (USD 275 billion).

  • According to UNCTAD World Investment Report, China was the third-largest source of outward FDI flows (USD 124.6 billion) in the world in 2017 (up from the 19th in 2007), behind the United States (USD 342.3 billion) and Japan (USD 160.4 billion).

  • According to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), China was the world’s largest exporter of merchandise trade in 2017 (up from the 11th in 1995), reaching USD 2,263 billion.

  • According to WTO, China was the world’s 5th largest exporter of commercial services in 2017 (up from the 16th in 1995), reaching USD226 billion.

  • According to International Monetary Fund, China has the largest foreign currency reserves as of December 2017, reaching USD 3,140 billion.

  • According to HKSAR Marine Department, Shanghai’s container throughput surpassed Singapore and ranked the first in the world since 2010.

  • According to World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), China ranked the world’s top tourism spending in 2017 (USD 258 billion), followed by the United States (USD 135 billion) and Germany (USD 84 billion).

  • According to Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission, as at end March 2018, the market capitalisation of Shanghai Stock Exchange is the second-largest in Asia (after Japan) and the fourth largest in the world.


Recent Government Initiatives

  • In March 2016, the National People’s Congress (NPC) adopted the 13th Five-Year Plan. The document expounds on the need to fully implement a development concept based on the tenets of “innovation, coordination, green growth, opening up and sharing”. It aims to enhance the quality of development in order to ensure the establishment of a moderately prosperous society.

  • The 13th Five-Year Plan makes innovation the primary driver of economic development. It also announces the launch of six key scientific and technological (S&T) projects and nine major projects under the “Scientific Innovation 2030” initiative, as well as the implementation of the “Made in China 2025” strategy for building a strong manufacturing country.

  • The Belt and Road Initiative is a significant development strategy launched by the Chinese government in March 2015, with the intention of promoting economic co-operation among countries along the Belt and Road. The Initiative intends to further market integration and create a regional economic co-operation framework. It aims at further deepening and expanding mutually beneficial co-operation in areas such as trade, investment, finance, transport and communication.

  • The development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Bay Area has been a feature of a number of China’s national strategies, including the Vision and Actions of Jointly Building the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and the 13th Five-Year Plan. The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Bay Area’s city cluster will extend across Hong Kong, Macau and nine Pearl River Delta (PRD) cities.

  • On 1 July 2017, the Framework Agreement on Deepening Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Co-operation in the Development of the Bay Area was signed by representatives of the NDRC, Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau. A number of key areas were designated as co-operation priorities, including promoting infrastructure connectivity, enhancing market integration, developing a global technology and innovation hub, establishing a modern industry network through coordinated development, jointly nurturing a high-quality living environment as a model place to live, work and visit, cultivating new resources in the field of international co-operation, and supporting the establishment of major co-operative platforms.

  • During the Boao Forum in April 2018, President Xi Jinping announced that China decides to adopt a series of new significant measures in expanding its opening-up. These measures include broadening market access, enhancing alignment with international economic and trade rules, strengthening protection of intellectual property rights and lowering imports tariffs.

  • China is shifting towards a consumption-driven economy by lowering its import tariffs. In November 2017, China cut import tariff on 187 consumer goods, the tariffs drop from an average 17.3% to 7.7% on products including pharmaceuticals, food, health supplements and clothing. From 1 July 2018, China has further reduced tariffs on 1,449 items, from an average tariff rate of 15.7% to 6.9%; and lower import tariffs on vehicles (from average 21.5% to 13.8%) and auto parts (from average 10.2% to 6.0%).

  • China is to reduce the Most-Favoured-Nation (MFN) tariff on 1,585 taxable items as of 1 November 2018. This will coincide with the provisional MFN tariff rates being abolished for 39 import items, while the existing MFN provisional tariff rates will remain in force for all goods unaffected by this latest round of cut. In total, the tariff reductions apply to 19% of all taxable import items, with the average tariff rate having fallen from 10.5% to 7.8%.


Major Economic Indicators

Chart: Real GDP Growth
Chart: Real GDP Growth
Chart: GDP composition, by sector (2017)
Chart: GDP composition, by sector (2017)
Chart: Fixed Assets Investment Growth (China)
Chart: Fixed Assets Investment Growth (China)
Chart: Added-value of Industrial Output Growth (China)
Chart: Added-value of Industrial Output Growth (China)
Chart: Retail Sales Growth (China)
Chart: Retail Sales Growth (China)
Chart: Change in CPI (China)
Chart: Change in CPI (China)
Chart: Manufacturing PMI (China)
Chart: Manufacturing PMI (China)
Chart: Growth of the RMB Loans (China)
Chart: Growth of the RMB Loans (China)
Chart: RMB Against the US$ (RMB_US$) (China)
Chart: RMB Against the US$ (RMB_US$) (China)
Chart: Foreign Exchange Reserves (China)
Chart: Foreign Exchange Reserves (China)

Sources: The National Bureau of Statistics; Pacific Exchange Rate Service; State Administration of Foreign Exchange


External Trade

Chart: Growth of Trade (China)
Chart: Growth of Trade (China)
Chart: Trade Balance (China)
Chart: Trade Balance (China)
Chart: Major Exports Commodities (2017)
Chart: Major Exports Commodities (2017)
Chart: Major Export Markets (2017)
Chart: Major Export Markets (2017)
Chart: Trade in Services
Chart: Trade in Services

Sources: Ministry of Commerce; General Administration of Customs.


Investment Flows

Chart: Flow of Inward FDI (China)
Chart: Flow of Inward FDI (China)
Chart: Flow of Inward FDI by Major Source (2017)
Chart: Flow of Inward FDI by Major Source (2017)
Chart: Stock of Inward FDI
Chart: Stock of Inward FDI
Chart: Stock of Inward FDI by Major Source (2017)
Chart: Stock of Inward FDI by Major Source (2017)
Chart: Flow of Outward Direct Investment
Chart: Flow of Outward Direct Investment
Chart: Flow of Outward Direct Investment by Major Destination (2016)
Chart: Flow of Outward Direct Investment by Major Destination (2016)
Chart: Stock of Outward Direct Investment
Chart: Stock of Outward Direct Investment
Chart: Stock of Outward Direct Investment by Major Destination (2016)
Chart: Stock of Outward Direct Investment by Major Destination (2016)

Sources: China Monthly Economic Indicators; 2016 Statistical Bulletin of China's Outward Foreign Direct Investment


Trade Relations, Trade Policies and Tax Treaties

Trade Relations

  • Founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)
  • Member of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
  • Member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
  • Member of the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC)
  • Member of the Asian Development Bank (ADB)
  • Member of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
  • Observer of the Trade Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)

Trade Policies

  • According to WTO, China’s average applied most favoured nation (MFN) tariff rate was 9.9% in 2016, progressively down from 15.3% in 2001. The average tariff was higher for agricultural products at 15.5% while the average tariff for non-agricultural products was 9.0%.

  • Since expanding domestic consumer demand is an important move in achieving stable economic growth and economic restructuring, the State Council further reduced the import tariffs on 187 foreign daily consumer goods items in December 2017. The average import tariff has been lowered down from 17.3% to 7.7%. On 1 July 2018, China will further lower import tariff on 1,449 items, from an average tariff rate of 15.7% to 6.9%.

  • China adopted the practice of “quarantine inspection before customs declaration” in customs clearance. Import Goods Clearance Slips and Export Goods Clearance Slips stamped with the special seal of inspection and quarantine authorities are issued to goods subject to entry-exit inspection and quarantine. The Customs will examine and release the goods against the Import Goods Clearance Slip or Export Goods Clearance Slip issued by the entry-exit inspection and quarantine authorities at the place of customs declaration.

  • Inspection is required for all import and export goods listed in the Catalogue of Import and Export Commodities Subject to Inspection and Quarantine by Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Authorities, or subject to inspection pursuant to other laws and regulations.

  • Safety licence and other regulatory requirements apply to imports of medicines, foodstuffs, animal and plant products, and mechanical and electronic products. For details, please refer to State Administration for Market Regulation website.

For details, please refer to Guide to Doing Business in China.

Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)

Currently, China has signed and implemented 17 free trade agreements (FTAs), 13 FTAs are under negotiation and another 10 FTAs are under considerations.

China’s FTAs (signed and implemented)

  • China-Maldives FTA
  • China-Georgia FTA
  • China-Australia FTA
  • China-Korea FTA
  • China-Switzerland FTA
  • China-Iceland FTA
  • China-Costa Rica FTA
  • China-Peru FTA
  • China-Singapore FTA
  • China-New Zealand FTA
  • China-Chile FTA
  • China-Pakistan FTA
  • China-ASEAN FTA
  • Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic and Partnership Agreement (CEPA)
  • Mainland and Macau Closer Economic and Partnership Agreement
  • China-ASEAN FTA Upgrade Negotiations
  • China-Chile Upgrade FTA Negotiations

China’s FTAs Under Negotiation

  • Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
  • China-GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) FTA
  • China- Japan-Korea FTA
  • China-Sir Lanka FTA
  • China-Israel FTA
  • China-Norway FTA
  • China-Pakistan FTA second phase
  • China-Singapore Upgrade FTA
  • China-New Zealand Upgrade FTA
  • China-Mauritius FTA
  • China-Moldova FTA
  • China-Panama FTA
  • China-Korea FTA second phrase

China’s FTAs Under Consideration

  • China-Columbia FTA Joint Feasibility Study
  • China-Fiji FTA Joint Feasibility Study
  • China-NePal FTA Joint Feasibility Study
  • China-Papua New Guinea FTA Joint Feasibility Study
  • China-Canada FTA Joint Feasibility Study
  • China-Bengal FTA Joint Feasibility Study
  • China-Mongol FTA Joint Feasibility Study
  • China-Palestine FTA Joint Feasibility Study
  • China-Peru Upgrade FTA Joint Feasibility Study
  • China-Switzerland FTA Joint Feasibility Study

For details, please refer to China FTA Network.


Economic Relations with Hong Kong

  • Hong Kong is the largest source of overseas direct investment in the Chinese Mainland. By the end of 2017, among all the overseas-funded projects approved in the Chinese Mainland, 44.9% were tied to Hong Kong interests. Cumulative utilised capital inflow from Hong Kong amounted to US$1,008.2 billion, accounting for 53.2% of the national total.

  • Hong Kong is also the leading destination for China’s FDI outflow. According to Chinese statistics, by 2016, the stock of FDI going to Hong Kong accumulated to US$780.7billion, or 57.5% 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$416 billion at market value or 25.7% of the total at the end of 2016.

  • As of December 2017, 1,051 mainland companies were listed in Hong Kong, comprising H-share, red-chip and private companies with total market capitalisation of around US$2.9 trillion, or 66% of the market total.

Hong Kong's Direct Investment in the Chinese Mainland

Projects, contracted and utilised direct investment 20171979-2017
Share of the
national total (%)
Share of the
national total (%)
Number of approved projects18,06646.3404,53044.9
Utilised direct investment (US$ bn)94.572.11,008.253.2

Sources: China Monthly Economic Indicators


  • Hong Kong was the Mainland's third largest trading partner (after the US and Japan) in 2017. According to China's Customs Statistics, bilateral trade between the Mainland and Hong Kong amounted to US$286.6billion (7.0% of the Mainland's total external trade) in 2017. Of which exports from the Chinese Mainland to Hong Kong stood at US$279.3 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 50.2% in 2017. The Chinese Mainland was Hong Kong’s largest import source accounting for 46.6% of Hong Kong’s total imports, and the largest export market accounting for 54.3% of Hong Kong’s total exports in 2017.

  • Hong Kong's trade with the Chinese Mainland is to a large extent related to outward processing activities. In Jan-Dec 2017, 27.3% of Hong Kong's total exports to the Chinese Mainland were related to outward processing activities. Meanwhile, 40.5% of Hong Kong’s imports from the Mainland and 72.6% 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 [1]

(US$ million)
2017Jan-Sep 2018
Total exports269,9788.41217,64111.61
   Domestic exports2,214-7.011,91315.61
Total Trade530,2537.11422,58010.31
Trade Balance9,70312,703

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: Alice Tsang
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