China’s significance in global trade has received a clear boost in 2020, with exports surging in defiance of speculation early in the year that it could be marginalised in a post-pandemic world, according to analysts. Beijing’s concern in spring, when an estimated 200 million workers were out of jobs, that China’s status as the factory of the world could be undermined has proven unfounded as the year enters its final month. China was the first major economy to bounce back from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and, after reporting 21.1 per cent year-on-year export growth last month , few would say its role in global value chains has diminished. Wang Jun, the chief economist at Zhongyuan Bank, said the coronavirus in 2020 has “consolidated China’s core status in the global supply chains”. Investors now have a renewed understanding of China’s “unique” advantages that were sometimes taken for granted before the coronavirus, including a large and complete industrial production system, reliable infrastructure and a huge domestic market, said Wang. In the first 11 months of the year, China’s biggest trade partner was the Asean bloc of nations, followed by the Europe Union, according to customs data. The United States was China’s third largest trade partner between January and November, but it remained its biggest export market. Japan was China’s fourth largest partner. Even if overseas economies are rebooted with vaccines from early next year, China’s share in global trade won’t drop quickly to the pre-pandemic level Yi Huan China’s recent signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a regional trade pact which covers 30 per cent of the global economy, will make its economy more integrated with Asia, though the deal’s direct economic benefits could be marginal, studies showed. China is expected to be the only Group of 20 nation to report positive growth this year, and the country’s economic rebound has fed into triumphalism in Beijing. Le Yucheng, China’s vice-minister for foreign affairs, said over the weekend that the coronavirus pandemic had not translated into the nation’s “Chernobyl moment”, but was instead a highlight for its “socialist system with Chinese characteristics”. Yi Huan, chief economist at brokerage Huatai Securities, said trade would continue to grow in the coming months, given that international orders had been placed and long-term business relations were strong. “Even if overseas economies are rebooted with vaccines from early next year, China’s share in global trade won’t drop quickly to the pre-pandemic level,” she wrote in a research note. Despite a push from Washington for decoupling, the US bought US$51.9 billion worth of merchandise in November, up 46 per cent, year on year. The US trade deficit with China was US$37.6 billion in November , up 52 per cent from a year earlier, and more than 70 per cent since the day Donald Trump entered office vowing to narrow the gap. “Despite all of the rhetoric, the trade relationship between China and the US is getting even closer this year,” said Larry Hu, chief China economist at Macquarie Capital. “Given the rising interdependence, it’s hard for the new president to escalate the trade war in the near term.” President-elect Joe Biden has not yet revealed his China policy, but has said he will not immediately dismantle the phase one trade deal agreed to in January.