Unexpectedly Intriguing!
08 March 2016

Every now and again, we like to look at the historical data that underlies our ongoing series of analysis on the topic of trade between the U.S. and China. In our first chart, we're presenting the value of goods and services that the U.S. exports to China, both in terms of U.S. dollars, which is what the U.S. economy sees, and in terms of Chinese yuan, which is how China's economy sees the value of the same goods.

Value of U.S. Exports to China, January 1985 through January 2016

Since 2013, we've seen what had been an exponential growth trajectory turn more into a S-shaped logistic curve, which corresponds to the deceleration of economic growth within China's economy.

Let's next look at the historical data for the value of the goods and services that the U.S. imports from China, spanning the same period from January 1985 through January 2016. Once again, we're presenting the value of the goods in terms of U.S. dollars and in Chinese yuan.

Value of U.S. Imports from China, January 1985 through January 2016

In this chart, we see that the value of goods that the U.S. imports from China in recent years is somewhere between three and four times the value of the goods that the U.S. exports to China. The chart reveals that the value of the goods imported by the U.S. grew at an exponential rate up until 2006, after which it stalled out with the onset of the deflation phase of the first U.S. housing bubble, before crashing during the Great Recession and then resuming a more linear uptrend in the years since 2013, coinciding with a period of slow economic growth in the U.S.

Our final chart shows the year over year growth rate of the value of goods that the U.S. imports from China, in terms of the U.S. dollars that the U.S. economy sees those goods, and the value of goods that the U.S. exports to China, in terms of the Chinese yuan that China's economy sees those goods. With that being the case, this chart provides a strong indication of the relative economic health of both nations' economies.

Year over Year Growth Rate of Exchange-Rate Adjusted Value of Goods and Services Traded Between the U.S. and China, January 1986 through January 2016

Through January 2016, it would appear that while both nations have rebounded over the low values set in December 2015, both remain in the negative growth territory that they have been in over the last four months.

Data Sources

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. China / U.S. Foreign Exchange Rate. G.5 Foreign Exchange Rates. Accessed 6 March 2016.

U.S. Census Bureau. Trade in Goods with China. Accessed 6 March 2016.


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