China’s Export Economy in Charts

Thursday, May 7, 2009 8:30
Posted in category China's Other Cities

One of the interesting, and perhaps most debatable, aspects watching the “Road to Recovery” is the fact that so much can be made from a few statistical measures that are typically offered up without much context.

It is a situation that lead me to write a piece called Are Trade Statistics the Best Measure for Success? a couple years ago, and has kept me largely restrained in believing that we are near a bottom, or that we know what a “bottom” is.

Why I say that is simple. That high line numbers, the numbers reported and often quoted, are not necessarily the best measure of what is going on, nor do they tell the real story.

That with regional clusters (I say 5.. others slice up to 8), China is actually a to get that, one needs to properly dig down into China’s various regions and industries, and take the time to work out what is really going on.


In the first graph above, I have constructed a simple chart that shows the last year of export growth data by province.  The X axis is essentially a percentage gain/ loss on the previous year with the Y axis being the time period (Period 1 is March 2008 and Period 12 is March 2009).

To further highlight the fact that there are some really interesting dynamics occurring, and to ensure that the chart did not look like a plate fo spaghetti, I simply removed any areas whose export from period 1 – 8 had grown slower than the national average and then remove any areas where their growth was faster than the national average from periods 9-12.

Resulting in a very interesting chart that highlights the economic impacts on some of China’s fastest growing regions where industries were not quite as solid (Hebei, Shanxi, Henan, Hunan, and Guanxi) with a couple of interesting results from Jiangsu and Chongqing.


Going down another layer to break these areas apart even further through showed just how clustered the regions themselves are.

The Yantgze Delta Markets of Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Anhui all stuck together falling  20% while the SEZs in Shenzhen, Shantou, and Zhuhai all took similar dives (Xiamen – center of Dell – fared much better).. and while Chongqing and Yunnan took similar dives, Sichuan saw the greatest provincial gain (surely in part due to recent attraction of FDI).

Which leads me back to the original point I was looking to make.  That while “China’s” economy has certainly grown on the whole over the last 20 years, and it has certainly felt the impact of the recent economic turmoil, its economy is not a single economy, nor will it act as a single unit.

Each slice that you take, and this chart will show you 40 more angles of the same figures, will offer a different view of impact on the China’s export economy, and that regardless of whether or not China’s economy has decoupled itself from the export economy.. it is clear that some areas within China are still very tied to it.

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