China’s exports rose last month at their fastest pace so far this year, the country’s General Administration of Customs announced on Friday.
Chinese factories ran at full throttle this summer, after the government brought the coronavirus almost completely under control within the nation’s borders. Exports were up 7.2 percent in July compared with a year ago, far above what economists had predicted — and even as the pandemic continued to ravage other nations’ economies.
By contrast, the value of China’s imports actually shrank 1.4 percent last month, a worse performance than the modest increase economists had expected. The physical volumes of China’s imports kept rising last month, but that was more than offset by a global fall in prices for oil and other commodities that the country buys from abroad.
The combination of rising exports and cheaper imports means that China’s trade surplus is widening sharply. That could trigger trade tensions in the months ahead, particularly as other countries face job losses from economic slowdowns triggered by the virus.
Despite Friday’s strong export data, share prices had fallen 1.7 percent by early afternoon on China’s stock exchanges. Investors worried about President Trump’s executive order on Thursday that announced broad restrictions on two popular Chinese social media networks, TikTok and WeChat.