China’s exports fell for the first time in seven years, the government reported Wednesday, sliding 2.2 percent in November and providing stark evidence that the global financial crisis has arrived here in earnest.
In October, by contrast, exports had surged 19.2 percent.
Imports also plunged sharply last month, falling 17.9 percent and widening the trade surplus to $40 billion, from $35.2 billion in October.
Taken together, the trade figures will be bracing to those who had viewed China as a potential savior for the slumping economies of the Europe, Japan and the United States.
“We were expecting a slowdown but the magnitude is a bit shocking,” Wang Tao, an analyst at UBS Securities, said.
The figures, together with further signs of a sagging economy in Japan, paint a picture of economic gloom spreading across Asia — even if much of the region will suffer from a less severe downturn than the United States and Europe.
By Andrew Jacobs
The New York Times
The worrisome developments will put added pressure on the Chinese government, which only last month announced a $586 billion stimulus package aimed at cushioning the effects of the global slowdown. In recent weeks, the government has reduced interest rates and taxes on stock trades and announced other measures aimed at lifting domestic consumption.
In a report broadcast on China National Radio after the trade figures were released, the government vowed to expand spending and cut taxes next year in an effort to spur job creation and bolster agriculture, social security, education and small and medium-size enterprises.
Beijing will also seek to ensure “healthy and stable” growth of the nation’s property markets, which has slowed sharply in recent months.
In another batch of sobering news, the government said that direct foreign investment fell 36.5 percent from a year earlier and that the producer price index, a measure of inflation at the factory level, had fallen to its lowest rate in two years. That figure, 2 percent in November, was 6.6 percent a month earlier. In August, when that number hit 10.1 percent, the government was focused on stemming the threat of inflation.
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