This article from the Wall Street Journal looked at economic trends in China from the early part of 2019 and concluded that foreign trade (exporting) is actually declining as a growth sector of the Chinese economy. Although trade contributed to growth in the first months of 2019, Foreign trade could be a net drag to economic growth in the second quarter, "China’s exports declined 2.7% from a year earlier in April, reversing a 14.2% gain in March, according to government data released Wednesday." The article points to the Trump Administration's renewed calls for 25% tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods as a major cause of China's "wobbly" economic growth over the past 18 months. The article suggests that the slowdown in trade exports points to more than just the immediate tariffs from the U.S., but to a potential long-term weakening of demand for Chinese goods across world markets.
The observations highlighted in this article are muted, and justifiably so. Although the data show Chinese exports dipped in March and April, they were strong in January and March. Additionally, Chinese imports grew significantly in the first part of 2019 due to a "value-added tax cut policy." Rather than predict a dramatic change in the health of the Chinese economy, this article simply points out a potential trend for political economists to keep their eyes on as the U.S. trade war with China heats up again.