China's head start on Trump's America

As the US awaited a new administration, its rival's January trading was beating expectations...

Chinese trade enjoyed an unexpectedly strong start to 2017, as exports jumped by a forecast-beating 7.9% in January.

Rising to $183 billion for the month, it easily beat Bloomberg's forecast of 3.2% growth and reversed a 6.1% plunge in December.

Imports also exceeded predictions, climbing 16.7% year-on-year and rising at their fastest rate in four years, thanks largely to a construction boom in the country. A Reuters poll had suggested growth of 10%.

It comes as the world's second largest economy primes itself to overtake the US, anticipating a retreat under US President Donald Trump's protectionist policies.

China will see it as an encouraging start, after 2016 proved to be the worst year for its exports since 2009.

China is already the top trading power in the world – its trade surplus climbed to $51.35 billion in January, beating estimates by over $2 billion.

According to Reuters, January and February trends in China can be distorted by the long Lunar New Year holidays, as many businesses increase production or rush to build inventories before closing for the break. The holiday started in late January this year, compared to the early February break last year.

Picture by AP/Press Association Images

Looking at the business done between China and the US, imports from the US rose 23.4% for the month, the fastest pace in at least a year.

China's monthly trade surplus with the US dipped to $21.37bn. 

The sustained level of more than $20bn is one of three criteria the US Treasury uses to designate another country as a currency manipulator.

Jianguang Shen, chief economist at Mizuho Securities in Hong Kong, told Reuters:

"The export outlook for China is good, except for the potential risk of a Sino-US trade war. The most important risk for China is what the Trump administration will do."

At the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, Chinese president Xi Jinping (pictured) made the case for globalisation, presenting his country as a friendly and open economic force.

"We must remain committed to free trade and investment," he warned. "We must promote trade and investment liberalisation. No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war. The right thing to do is to seize every opportunity to jointly meet challenges and chart the right course for economic globalisation."

Trump and Xi spoke by phone on Thursday evening, the first conversation between the pair since Trump took office.

Having previously questioned a longstanding US policy on Taiwan and broken protocol by taking a call with Taiwan's leader, Trump committed to honouring the "One China" policy at Xi's request, the White House said.