While China's customs data points to solid growth in imports and exports in the first 11 months of 2018, experts predicted a continuously narrowing surplus and a growing trade volume next year.
"The country's foreign trade will maintain its momentum in the next year, and as China has become more aware of the importance of imports, the trade surplus is expected to further decrease," said Wang Xiaosong, a researcher with the National Academy of Development and Strategy at Renmin University of China. "The nation is expected to see a more balanced trade structure."
According to the General Administration of Customs (GAC), China saw 11.1 percent yearly growth in goods trade in first 11 months of this year, with the value already exceeding the total foreign trade amount registered last year.
Exports grew 8.2 percent year-on-year to 14.92 trillion yuan ($2.16 trillion) from January to November, while imports saw 14.6 percent growth, totaling 12.96 trillion yuan. This resulted in a trade surplus of 1.96 trillion yuan, a 21.1 percent decrease compared to the same period last year.
China's trade with the European Union, the United States and ASEAN members rose 8.7 percent, 7.2 percent and 12.9 percent year-on-year respectively, while trade with economies along the Belt and Road Initiative grew faster than average, with the trade volume in the first 11 months reaching 7.62 trillion yuan, up 14.4 percent year-on-year.
Wang said the fast growth and optimizing trade structure were a result of policymaking and unsustainable factors such as policies to stimulate imports, depreciation of the renminbi and advanced trading to avoid the negative impact of uncertainty in the international trade environment.
"Expanding imports is an inevitable requirement for the balanced development of foreign trade," Wang added. "A comparative competitive edge is the foundation of international trade and the origin of benefits from international trade. Overemphasizing on exports may guarantee increased foreign exchange reserves, but it doesn't mean a better life and prosperity for ordinary people."
The data from the GAC also indicated that China's private sector has been playing an increasingly important role in trade. In the first 11 months of 2018, the total import and export volume from private companies reached 11.03 trillion yuan, up 14.4 percent year-on-year, accounting for 39.6 percent of the total trade volume.
Li Kuiwen, director-general of the Department of Statistics of the GAC, said more private enterprises have been continuing to improve the added value of their products and enhance their competitiveness.