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ASR on China’s balance of payments: Adam Wolfe in The Economist

Beth McCann

7th MAR. 2023

China’s official statistics are often suspected of flattering the economy. But ASR’s Adam Wolfe considers “the balance-of-payments figures may actually understate the size of the country’s pandemic-era export boom”. 

2022’s declared current-account surplus of 2.3% of GDP was the highest figure in 14 years. 

But China’s customs data suggests the surplus was even bigger: over 3%. Figures released on Tuesday showed a surplus of almost $117bn in the first two months of this year. 

The Economist notes: “Chinese authorities point out that the two sources of data have different ways of handling some transactions in and out of China’s special trade zones. But ASR’s Adam Wolfe is unconvinced that this can account for such a big discrepancy. China should nonetheless escape too much criticism for its alleged imbalances. Thanks to weak global demand and a strengthening domestic economy, China’s surplus should eventually shrink. The anomaly may subside before it is solved.”

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