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Port of Qingdao in Shandong province. China is the world's biggest exporter and second-largest importer, and saw a year-on-year growth of 6.2 percent in foreign trade in 2012, according to the latest customs figure. Yu Fangping / For China Daily
As the largest trading partner of 124 economies, the country has brought huge economic benefits to markets around the world, reports Bao Chang
The world's second-largest economy is well on its way to achieving "the Chinese Dream" when it comes to foreign trade and economic cooperation on the global stage, after developing itself into the biggest trading partner of a majority of countries and regions worldwide.
According to the latest statistics, the country had become the largest trading partner of 124 economies by 2011, compared with 70 in 2006, meaning it had overtaken the United States as the biggest trading partner of most nations.
The US, which was the largest trading partner of 127 economies five years ago, meanwhile, has seen a decrease in that number to 76, according to figures from the Associated Press, released last month.
He Weiwen, co-director at the China-US-EU Study Center of the China Association of International Trade, said that despite a sharp slowdown in global activity, China's foreign trade has continued to grow.
"China's positive economic influence has been surging in surrounding countries over the past five years," he added.
Last month, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade released statistics showing China remained its biggest trading partner with bilateral trade recorded at $A127.8 billion ($134 billion).
"China has strong demand for Australia's mineral, natural gas and coal products on which the two sides have profound cooperation," said Kevin Rudd, Australia's former prime minister.
The southern hemisphere nation is joined by Japan, South Korea, India, Russia, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Iran, Brazil and South Africa on the list of regions and countries whose biggest trading partner is China.
China, for the first time, replaced the US as Japan's largest trading partner in 2007 with a record high of trade value between the two countries. China's purchase from Japan contributes a lot to the bilateral trade. Japan's exports to China surged by 10.1 percent from a year earlier to $194.59 billion in 2011.
Japan's exports to China grew by 21 percent to 1.3 trillion yen ($14.76 billion) in 2011, almost double the growth of exports to the US.
The figure represented a high demand for Japanese manufactured goods, as well as greater shipments of finished products.
In the same year, China became the biggest trading partner of South Korea, with bilateral trade reaching $140.5 billion. Over the past 15 years, Sino-South Korean trade has increased more than 20-fold..
Pascal Lamy, director-general of the World Trade Organization, has been vociferous in his praise of China in recent months, suggesting that since entering the WTO, the country has continuously increased its imports from major trading partners, benefiting the organization and the other countries it trades with.
He said in October that if China's economy were not what it is today, the rest of the world would be "far worse off" economically, after importing so many of the world's products, which helped China's rate of growth in imports reach between 15 percent and 20 percent a year for the past decade.
China is the world's biggest exporter and second-largest importer, and saw a year-on-year growth of 6.2 percent in foreign trade in 2012, according to the latest customs figure.
The country had set a 10 percent target for foreign trade growth in 2012, and official estimates are that combined imports and exports are expected to top $3.87 trillion during the year.
Commerce Minister Chen Deming announced in December that China's share of global trade increased to 11.1 percent in 2012 from 10.4 percent a year earlier.
The ministry has set a growth target of 8 percent for 2013, driven mainly by greater efforts to boost domestic consumption.
To boost imports, the State Council, China's cabinet, has pledged to cut import duties on selected energy products and raw materials as well as consumer goods.
Vice-Premier Li Keqiang has said that China will import $10 trillion worth of goods and services in the five years ending 2015.
In 2011, China's imports reached $1.74 trillion, accounting for 9 percent of the global figure, and that amount is expected to grow about $100 billion annually. In 2012, the figure rose to $1.82 trillion.
In the future, China will encourage more purchases from its main trading partners and those that have free trade agreements with the country, such as Pakistan, New Zealand and ASEAN member countries.
China's economic influence has now been expanded significantly from countries in Asia, especially to the rapidly emerging markets of Africa and Latin America.
In the Associated Press report analyzing trading relationships around the world, trade with China accounts for an average 12.4 percent of the gross domestic product of 180 economies in 2011, a figure now ahead of the US.
In 2002, the average national proportion of GDP of Chinese trade was around 3 percent, while the number for the US was 8.7 percent.
If that momentum continues, China's foreign trade value will exceed that of the US, which would mark an unprecedented achievement in the country's development over the past 30 years, the report said.
To some extent, China's booming foreign trade has been the key driver of its economic revival, according to the report.
The "Chinese Dream", which has been championed by China's top political leader Xi Jinping, is not only benefiting the Chinese people but is also being extended around the world.
In an interview late last year with Xinhua News Agency, Jeremy Paltiel, a professor of political science at Carleton University in Ottawa, said China had contributed greatly to global economic growth.
The recognized international specialist in the politics, government and foreign policies of Asia, added: "For much of the 21st century, China's growth alone has been responsible for a very sizeable portion of the growth in the global economy, pulling other economies along with it."
(China Daily 01/11/2013 page17)