Why did China buck the trend and become Britain’s largest source of imports?

Why did China buck the trend and become Britain's largest source of imports?

According to data released on the official website of the Office of National Statistics (ONS) recently, in the second quarter of this year, China became the UK’s largest source of imports for the first time. When the import and export trade of various countries has been hit hard by the new crown pneumonia epidemic, why did China buck the trend and become the largest source of imports for the UK?

ONS pointed out that for the first time in the second quarter, the scale of British imports from China surpassed all other trading countries. Data show that the share of Britain’s imports from China in the second quarter increased from 8.6% in the first quarter to 13.4% in the second quarter, and the scale of imports reached 11 billion pounds.

In terms of specific imported products, electronic equipment accounted for the largest proportion of British imports from China, accounting for 35.2%, with a total of approximately 3.9 billion pounds. Such electronic equipment includes electronic and audio equipment and office equipment. Office equipment mainly includes smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

ONS said that China’s electronic equipment imports continued the growth trend in the first quarter of this year. In the first quarter, the UK’s electronic equipment imported from China ranked second in all kinds of commodity imports.

Judging from the situation in the first half of this year, more than a quarter of the electronic and mechanical products imported by the UK came from China. Among the British imports from China, the proportion of electronic products, audio equipment and office equipment is also relatively high, all exceeding 30%. This trend is basically consistent with the data of previous years. ONS historical statistics show that in 2019, electronic equipment, communication equipment, office machinery and equipment, clothing, furniture, etc. are the main product categories imported by the UK from China.

ONS data also shows that China is the second largest source of imports for the UK in 2019, second only to Germany. Britain mainly imports cars, road vehicles, and medical products from Germany. However, in the second quarter of this year, the share of Britain’s imports from other trading partners such as Germany declined, but China achieved growth.

Experts said in an interview with a reporter from China News Agency that China became the UK’s largest source of imports for the first time in the second quarter, mainly for the following three reasons.

First, China’s epidemic prevention and control has begun to achieve significant results in the second quarter. At this time, when the epidemic in many European countries began to raging, the outbreak of the epidemic affected the industrial chain and supply chain of many European countries. Britain’s major trading partners, such as Germany, have adopted blockade measures to prevent the epidemic, which has affected trade flows to a certain extent. Data show that in the second quarter, UK road vehicle exports and imports fell sharply. The production of transportation equipment of Britain’s largest EU partners such as Germany has also declined.

Second, China has the production advantage of the entire industry chain, which other countries do not have. According to statistics from the United Nations agency, in the industrial category, China is the only country in the world that has all the industrial categories in the United Nations Industrial Classification. Compared with other countries, China’s advantages in the entire industry chain can quickly help China resume work and production.

Bai Ming, deputy director of the International Market Research Institute of the Ministry of Commerce, said that during the epidemic, the rise of the “home economy” created favorable conditions for Britain to import electronic equipment from China in the second quarter.

ONS quoted data from the International Trade Center (ITC) in the report that 46.9% of global mobile phone exports in 2019 came from China, and many of the world’s leading smartphone brands are located in China or have manufacturing plants in China.

The third is the influence of the British “Brexit” factor. Chen Fengying, a researcher at the China Institute of Modern International Relations, pointed out that the UK is still negotiating with the EU on “Brexit” related matters. The news of “Brexit” has to some extent affected the trade between the UK and Europe and other traditional trading partners.

Bai Ming also said that the “Brexit” negotiations mean that in the short term, there will be re-adjustment of the supply chain and industrial chain division of labor within the United Kingdom and the European Union, which also makes the United Kingdom urgently need to expand the source of imports from other countries.

China and Britain have very close ties in import and export trade. ONS data shows that in 2019, China ranked third among the UK exporting countries, after the United States and Germany.