Unexpected Drop in China’s Imports and Exports

And to get back to our collapsing global economy.

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BEIJING — Chinese exports registered their largest drop in nearly a decade last month, suggesting that the global recession could be far worse than many economists had previously predicted.

According to statistics released by the Chinese government Wednesday, exports fell 2.2 percent from November 2007 to November 2008 — the largest year-over-year monthly decline since April 1999.

Even at a time of increasingly dour economic news, the Chinese trade numbers stunned many economists. They struck an ominous note for China, where labor unrest has increased markedly as the economy has slowed in the last month.

Many analysts had anticipated that the monthly trade figures would show China’s export machine slowing along with the global economy, but few had expected it to slip into reverse. In October, exports surged 19.2 percent year-over-year.

“We were expecting a slowdown, but the magnitude is a bit shocking,” said Wang Tao, an analyst at UBS Securities.

Most worrisome, China’s economic dynamism of the last 20 years has been powered by the twin engines of exports and foreign investment. But in other sobering news, the government said that direct foreign investment fell 36.5 percent from a year earlier in November.

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