Figures from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) showed that the growth of outbound tourism and spending contributed to a significant increase in service trade deficit in early 2023.
In January, the service trade deficit increased by 4.4 billion dollars compared to December, reaching 15.4 billion dollars. SAFE said that tourism contributed 14.5 billion dollars of the deficit, which is 2 billion dollars more than in December. In 2022, China posted a total service trade deficit of 98.9 billion dollars.
Tourism growth was driven by the lifting of coronavirus restrictions by the Chinese government and the opening of borders (for the first time since March 2020). Until the beginning of 2023, China pursued a "zero Covid" policy - in fact, the country has been living in lockdown since the beginning of the pandemic. Strict anti-COVID measures included numerous checks and tough lockdowns at the slightest suspicion of an outbreak of the epidemic, and the authorities quarantined entire cities. After mass protests in late November, Beijing eased some of the most severe measures.
Commenting on the latest data from SAFE, Barclays experts said that consumption by Chinese tourists outside the country accounted for up to 85% of the service deficit before the pandemic.