U.S.-China Trade Growth Slows in March 2022 Ahead of Shanghai Lockdown

After surging in February, the growth rate of U.S. exports to China slowed to single digits in March 2022. At the same time, the year-over-year growth of U.S. imports from China also slowed, but not as much as U.S. exports did.

But none of that takes China's new COVID lockdowns in its largest trade hub of Shanghai into account, which was imposed by China's government on 28 March 2022. That lockdown is projected to continue well into May 2022.

That means our chart tracking the recovery of trade between the U.S. and China following the initial phase of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 is uniquely capable of assessing the impact of China's Shanghai lockdown will have on that recovery. That's because right now, it shows no impact from China's new lockdown, while the trailing twelve month average (the heavy black line) of the combined value of goods traded between the U.S. and China is starting from a point that's narrowed to fall within a small gap of our projection of what that recovery would look like without China's continuing zero-COVID lockdown policies.

Combined Value of U.S. Exports to China and U.S. Imports from China, January 2017 - March 2022

That narrowing is an unexpected bonus in that regard, since we had anticipated the gap between the actual trailing year average and the counterfactual would open slightly wider following February's exceptionally strong year-over-year gain.

The impact of the Chinese government's lockdown of Shanghai is already being felt in U.S. ports through shipping delays.

Those delays are developing at the same time U.S. ports are making progress in unloading the backlog of container ships inbound from China, which the Biden administration had allowed to develop and fester in 2021. We're excited to see how these factors might alter the trajectory of trade captured in our chart.


U.S. Census Bureau. Trade in Goods with China. Last updated: 4 May 2022. Accessed 4 May 2022.