China’s push for sustainable and low-carbon development has led to a shift in the top drivers of the country’s foreign trade. The new “three major” products – solar batteries, lithium-ion batteries, and electric vehicles – have experienced a significant surge, registering a 66.9 percent increase in the first quarter of this year. In 2022, these green products contributed 1.7 percentage points to the overall export growth, whereas in the first quarter of 2023, they contributed 2 percentage points, according to official data. Zhou Maohua, an analyst with China Everbright Bank, states that the growth of China’s foreign trade in Q1 is mainly due to new energy-related exports.
Exports of electric vehicles, photovoltaic (PV) products, and lithium-ion batteries rose by 131.8 percent, 67.8 percent, and 86.7 percent, respectively, in 2022. Customs data shows that these exports were sent to over 200 countries and regions globally in the first quarter of 2023, with the top five markets showing growth rates of over 80 percent. These markets include the European Union, the United States, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Republic of Korea, and the United Kingdom.
The rise in the demand for low-carbon products, coupled with China’s technological advantage in manufacturing quality green products, has made China an important supplier to many economies. The increasing production capacity in these sectors has also bolstered exports. For instance, in the first two months of this year, the total output of lithium-ion batteries jumped by 24 percent year on year, while major products of the PV sector logged growth rates of around 60 percent. In March, the production of new-energy vehicles surged by 44.8 percent from a year earlier to about 674,000 units.
Analysts predict that green exports will remain an engine for high-quality growth in the near future, thanks to a nurturing policy environment and continued investment. China has vowed to consolidate the foundation of self-reliance and strength in science and technology and to cement and expand the advantages in new-energy vehicle development, according to a leadership meeting in late April. Investment in high-tech industries in Q1 has outpaced overall growth, with investment in high-tech manufacturing and high-tech service sectors expanding by 15.2 percent and 17.8 percent, respectively, year on year.