According to Chinese folklore, the snake is intelligent and clever. Given that, it is appropriate that China celebrated the Year of the Snake, which began yesterday, by overtaking the US as the world’s largest trading nation.
Numbers compiled by Bloomberg show that China’s annual trade was valued at $3.87 trillion (Dh14.20 trillion), approximately $50 billion more than the US, which has dominated world trade since the end of the Second World War.
It is another milestone for China, which became the world’s biggest exporter in 2009, and has been averaging 9.9 per cent growth since the economic reformation of the late 1970s that followed the death of Chairman Mao.
Those changes also helped make the country the world’s biggest energy user, given it the biggest car market, and its cultural proclivity towards savings have also helped it acquire the world’s largest foreign currency reserves.
Sunday's announcement will not mark the high water mark for the country’s economy, either. Despite recent press coverage of its ‘soft landing’, the Chinese economy is expected to continue to grow and even surpass the US. A PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) report released yesterday said that China could become the world’s largest economy by 2017.
China’s growth over the last four decades has caused some concerns — in terms of corruption, the pressure of its currency, the working conditions of it workers, and the safety of some of it products – but turning an agrarian society into the manufacturing hub of the world was never going to be a flawless endeavour.
China’s ability to address these issues only increases its ability to sustain further growth.
Despite its problems, China’s exports have also helped build up Asia as an economic power and even helped maintain the global economy while western nations struggled with the aftermath of risky speculative investing and uncontrolled debt.
That deserves praise. While China’s continuing growth is likely to be disruptive to some countries which will find it difficult to compete, its growth will help bring the world’s economy back into bloom.
A stable country that can drive a global economy with its trade is just what the world needs.