China's export grew 14.1 per cent in December due primarily to the export of Apple’s iconic iPhone. Economists have credited everything from pre-Christmas smartphone releases – including Apple's iPhone 5 – to the rush of shipping after a California ports strike for the surge.
But analysts also warn of data distortions, with growth in container shipping not matching reported export volumes, and seasonal blips from Christmas and the coming Chinese New Year. With credit also tightening, the numbers are unlikely to boost forecasts on China's overall economic growth.
Customs administration officials said they expected China's trade to be “slightly better” this year than last. The country's global trade surplus last year rose 49 per cent to US$231.1-billion. Its trade surplus with the United States is also up, to $218.9-billion for the year.
The United States replaced struggling Europe as China's largest trading partner last year, receiving exports worth $351.8 billion, just exceeding the $334 billion to the European Union.
Exports to Southeast Asia also jumped 27.8 per cent, up from 19.3 per cent the previous month.
The World Bank predicts 2012 growth to end at eight percent for the year, with 2013 coming in around 7.5 percent. Private economist forecasts range from a low of six percent to well over eight percent, all citing continuing investment by government as both a driver and threat to the country's economic health.