China may run a trade deficit by 2023, top economist suggests

China may run a trade deficit by 2023, top economist suggests

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China may face a trade deficit within the next five to 10 years as the next phase of the economy's development will require the country to ramp up imports, according to one of China's top economists. Zhang Yansheng, who previously ran an academic committee at the National Development and Reform Commission, made the remarks at a conference hosted by the South China Morning Post on Thursday.

China can no longer rely on exports to grow its economy as it has done over the past 30 years, according to Zhang, because the model is now unsustainable and would put too much strain on ties with the rest of the world.

"The next stage is an open economy that focuses on a balance of trade," he said. "Expanding imports is a very significant part of China becoming a big global power."

China's exports rose 10.8% in yuan terms in 2017 thanks to a boom in global trade, Bloomberg reported. However, imports surged 18.7% over the same period, bringing the trade surplus down to 2.87 trillion yuan ($442.3 billion).