China is rising as a world trade power that is increasingly dominating the global market not with the scale of its import and export values like it used to but with increasing competitiveness in its companies and products, Chinese trade officials and experts said this week.
The shift, which is also reflected in China's ability to nurture new markets, comes after the Chinese government rolled out policies and measures in the past few years to promote trade cooperation overseas and also improve domestic conditions for industries and companies, experts pointed out on Thursday.
They also added that such measures must continue amid the challenges and uncertainties in the global market.
Song Xianmao, head of the Department of Foreign Trade at the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), said on Wednesday that China's foreign trade has seen many positive trends in recent months in areas such as an optimized export structure and market diversification.
"Going forward… We will improve the quality and effectiveness of foreign trade development and push for the shift of [China as] a big trading country to a powerful trading country," Song told reporters in Beijing, according to a post on the ministry's official WeChat account.
In a separate article posted on October 16, the MOFCOM also said that China has improved its foreign trade structure and competitiveness in the past few years, while consolidating its status as a "big trading country."
"Since 2009, China maintained for eight consecutive years its status as the largest exporting country and the second-largest importing country," the ministry said in the article.
It added that Chinese exports accounted for 13.2 percent of the global total in 2016, up from 10.4 percent in 2011.
Meanwhile, since the global financial crisis in 2008, China's imports have risen 1.5 billion, accounting for 20 percent of global growth during the period, the MOFCOM said.
In the first three quarters of 2017, China's total trade showed strong growth of 16.6 percent to 20.29 trillion yuan (.06 trillion), with exports growing 12.4 percent and imports rising 22.3 percent, according to data the General Administration of Customs released on October 13.
"China's foreign trade development has made important contributions to the world economy and trade recovery," the ministry noted.
"Just by judging from the contribution rates to the world economy and trade, it's clear that China has a powerful and dominant position in the global market," said Wang Jun, a deputy director of the Department of Information at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges.
"It can be said that China is the major force in driving the recovery of global trade," Wang said. "That wasn't at all easy to achieve given the challenges in the past few years."
Behind that lay a huge shift in China's trade structure: China is no longer dependent on processing products to lift its exports; it is increasingly shipping domestic products, Wang told the Global Times on Thursday.
"Our export picture has changed from low-end, labor-intensive products to high-quality advanced ones," said Bai Ming, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.
"That's what a powerful trading country means: We are no longer just a country with big trade value but one with quality trade," Bai said, adding that situation resulted from measures taken by the government.
Overseas, China is trying to expand its export markets through efforts such as the Belt and Road initiative; domestically, the government is taking measures such as the "Made in China 2025" industrial upgrade initiative and other steps to improve conditions for companies and upgrade industry capabilities, Bai told the Global Times on Thursday.
"Foreign trade and domestic industrial upgrading are intertwined," he said, adding these efforts must continue because challenges persist, including sluggish growth and an uncertain policy environment.
"We need to continue to nurture more markets in countries and regions along the Belt and Road routes and improve the competitiveness of our companies and products," he said.