Dependence on Australian iron ore set to decline

In the short-run, China has no choice but to grit its teeth and keep buying Australian iron ore, even as bilateral ties continue to fray. But this dependence will diminish over time thanks to increased supply from other sources, greater use of recycled steel and a structural decline in Chinese steel demand. It may be feasible for China to cut off Australian iron ore shipments by the middle of the decade.
Julian Evans-Pritchard Senior China Economist
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China Data Response

China Official PMIs (Nov.)

The official PMIs suggest that industrial activity rebounded this month thanks to easing disruptions from power shortages while a renewed virus flare-up held back the recovery in services. And while we know little about its transmissibility and severity, the new Omicron variant could hold back a further economic recovery. On a more positive note, the surveys point to easing price pressures.

30 November 2021

China Chart Book

Omicron tests China’s zero-COVID strategy

The global spread of a more transmissible COVID variant is a particular challenge for a country trying to remain COVID-free. But after nearly two years of success suppressing infections domestically, the bar to changing course before better medical treatments or vaccines are available is high. A study published last week by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that if China were to adopt the pandemic control measures recently in place in several Western countries, it would soon be facing several hundred thousand new cases per day and 10-20,000 severe cases. These estimates were deliberately conservative, made on the assumption that natural and vaccine-derived immunity is as high in China as in the comparator countries. The actual health cost, the authors argue, would almost certainly be higher. Given these concerns, if Omicron proves harder to contain than Delta, we would expect officials to tighten containment measures in response. Economically, that would lead to further intermittent disruption to domestic activity, particularly services, and to global supply chains.

29 November 2021

China Economics Weekly

Capacity constraints put a ceiling on export outlook

In the long-run, the global spread of highly-transmissible coronavirus strains may make China’s zero-COVID stance untenable but the immediate response to concerns about B.1.1.529  is more likely to be a doubling down on the strategy, with rolling local lockdowns in response to any local cases and continued tight border controls. China’s exporters could benefit from another wave of lockdown-induced demand elsewhere in the world. But capacity limits, particularly at ports, potentially exacerbated by further port shutdowns, may limit their ability to meet orders.

26 November 2021

More from Julian Evans-Pritchard

Long Run Update

Employment already declining at pace

Revisions to the historic data following the recent census show that China’s population barely grew last year and that employment is already contracting faster than previously understood, having peaked in 2014 rather than 2017. The silver-lining, however, is that the new data suggest that productivity growth has slowed by less and that there is greater scope to counter demographic headwinds by boosting participation rates over the coming decades.

1 July 2021

China Data Response

China Caixin Manufacturing PMI (Jun.)

The Caixin manufacturing index published today dropped back last month and adds to signs from the official PMI released yesterday that momentum in industry is waning. The surveys point to a levelling off in demand and easing of price pressures, even as supply shortages continue to constrain output.

1 July 2021

China Chart Book

No, China isn’t exporting inflation

Some believe that China is adding to global inflationary pressure. The opposite is closer to the truth: the large increase in China’s trade surplus over the past year signals that supply from China has risen far more than demand. Global consumer goods prices are rising in spite of China, not because of it. Admittedly, China’s rapid, investment-intensive recovery has been an important factor in the rise in global commodity prices over the past year – this is the key reason why China’s producer price inflation hit a 12-year high last month. But China’s contribution to the surge in global demand for consumer durables has been relatively small – unlike in many major economies, retail spending on goods in China is not particularly strong. And while dollar prices of goods from China have risen over the past year, these price hikes have generally failed to keep up with the pace of renminbi appreciation. In renminbi terms, export prices have been falling unusually fast.

30 June 2021
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