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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 January 2006, 13:28 GMT
China sees trade surplus triple
A worker stands in front of containers at China's new Yangshan deep water port
The world wants China's cheap goods
China's trade surplus with the rest of world more than tripled to $102bn (58bn) in 2005, official figures show.

Exports for the year jumped by 28.4% to $762bn, while imports rose by just under 18% to $660.12bn, China's General Administration of Customs reported.

The soaring surplus, up from $32bn in 2004, could add to concerns among China's major trading partners.

US critics say China's yuan currency remains undervalued, giving the country an unfair trade advantage.

Beijing last year revalued the yuan for the first time in a decade, allowing it to appreciate against the dollar within a narrow trading band.

But many economists believe the currency could strengthen to 7.75 yuan to the dollar - rather than the current level of just under 8.1 yuan - if China allowed it to trade freely.

World's workshop

China's biggest trading partner in 2005 was the European Union, with bilateral trade rising by 22.6% to $217.3bn during the year.

The US was China's second-biggest trading partner, at $211.6bn, followed by Japan at $184.4bn.

"These are unprecedented surplus volumes, reflecting the structural changes of China becoming the factory of the world," said Dong Tao, an economist at Credit Suisse First Boston in Hong Kong.

However, separate trade figures for December suggested that the rate of China's export growth was beginning to soften.

Exports during the month jumped by 18.2%, but imports rose by a faster 22.2%, giving a trade surplus of $11bn in December - slightly down from the $11.1bn seen at the same time last year.

Analysts have predicted that China's export growth in 2006 could drop by as much as 20%, as demand for cheap Chinese goods in the US cools and the yuan rises further.

China has seen its economy expand by about 9% annually for several years.

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