China’s trade surplus has hit $535 billion, its highest level since 2015, amid the global coronavirus pandemic and an ongoing trade war with Washington.

According to the latest customs data, China’s exports rose 18.1 percent in December from a year earlier, slowing from a 21.1-percent surge in November but exceeding the forecast growth of 15 percent. December imports saw a 6.5-percent year-on-year increase, beating expectations for a five-percent growth, and rising from the November growth of 4.5 percent.

Trade surplus in December alone amounted to $78.17 billion, the highest reading on Refinitiv records going back to 2007, whereas economists had expected the trade surplus to fall to $72.35 billion from $75.40 billion in November.

Over the full year, Chinese exports grew 3.6 percent, while imports fell 1.1 percent, making China the only major economy to see positive growth in 2020.

Chinese exporters managed to benefit from the earlier reopening of the economy and demand for masks and other pandemic-related goods made in the country.

“China has become the only major economy in the world to achieve positive economic growth [in 2020]. The trade imports and exports were significantly better than expected, and the scale of foreign trade hit a record high,” a Chinese spokesman said.

Despite a prolonged tariff war with Washington, China posted a $3 billion surplus in trade with the US, as December exports were $4.6 billion, while imports of American goods totaled $1.6 billion.

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