Official Chinese and American trade data indicate China passed the United States last year in total imports and exports by a margin of $3.866 trillion to $3.822 trillion. That is about $44 billion, or just over 1 percent of China’s total.
The Commerce Ministry has taken the unusual step of publicly denying China is the new No. 1. It says China still trailed the U.S. by $15.6 billion last year – or a razor-thin 0.3 percent – under World Trade Organization standards for valuing goods.
Beijing wants to be a global leader but insists it still is a poor country. It is wary of any change that might erode that status and fuel demands for action to stimulate the global economy or concessions on trade and climate change.