Dongguan might be heading for a sharp fall in exports soon thanks to the China-US trade war, but April’s numbers showed resilience, up 13.4% YoY at RMB68.47 billion. Imports grew 6% YoY to RMB44.87 billion.
Moreover, private enterprise is leading the improvement, up 16.1% in the first four months, an increase of 3.3 percentage points over the same period of 2018. Leading the charge were, again, exports of mobile phones, which were up 29.5%. Noteworthy was exports of integrated circuits, which hit RMB8.15 billion, nearly double the previous number.
Total trade volume with the US has begun to fall, with ASEAN and the European Union jumping ahead to take first and second place. New tariffs placed on Chinese-made goods, announced by the US in early May, will need time to show up in the trade stats, of course. But exporters are already braced for impact, as the US tariffs now cover electronic products in which Dongguan specializes: laptops and other smart devices.
It remains to be seen what effect this will have on Dongguan’s overall economic health. The city is home to some of the country’s biggest manufacturers, particularly the “big three” of smartphones: Huawei, Vivo and Oppo. But they have been increasingly focused on selling to a domestic market, so it is unclear how much of Dongguan’s electronic-device manufacturers will lose once the US tariffs kick in. Whatever it is will be a bellwether for the country’s exports of such products.