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Located in East Asia near key trading partners including Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, India and Singapore, the People’s Republic of China shipped US$2.494 trillion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 6.5% gain since 2014 and a 10.2% increase from 2017 to 2018.

As of July 27, 2019, China exported $1.171 trillion worth of goods during the first 6 months of 2019 up 0.05% compared to the same period one year earlier.

From a continental perspective, about half (47.8%) of Chinese exports in 2018 by value were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 22.4% were sold to North American importers. China shipped another 19.1% worth to clients in Europe. Smaller percentages of China’s total exported goods arrived in Africa (4.21%), Latin America (4.17%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, Oceania (2.3%) led by Australia and New Zealand.

Given China’s population of 1.385 billion people, its total $2.494 trillion in 2018 exports translates to about $1,800 for every resident in the East Asian sovereign state.

In macroeconomic terms, China’s total exported goods represent 9.9% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($25.270 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 9.9% for exports to overall GDP per PPP in 2018 compares to 13.6% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for China’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that China also provided $266.8 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 1.1% of GDP in PPP.

Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. China’s unemployment rate was 3.67% as of March 2019 down from 3.9% in January 2018, according to Trading Economics.

China’s Top 10 Exports

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Chinese global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from China. 

  1. Electrical machinery, equipment: US$664.4 billion (26.6% of total exports)
  2. Machinery including computers: $430 billion (17.2%)
  3. Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: $96.4 billion (3.9%)
  4. Plastics, plastic articles: $80.1 billion (3.2%)
  5. Vehicles: $75.1 billion (3%)
  6. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $73.5 billion (2.9%)
  7. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $71.4 billion (2.9%)
  8. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $71.4 billion (2.9%)
  9. Articles of iron or steel: $65.6 billion (2.6%)
  10. Organic chemicals: $59.8 billion (2.4%)

China’s top 10 exports accounted for approximately two-thirds (67.7%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Organic chemicals represent the fastest-growing among China’s top 10 export categories from 2017 to 2018, thanks to a 20.2% gain.

In second place for improving export sales was the 15.6% increase for the articles made from iron or steel category.

China’s exported plastics and items made from plastic posted the third-fastest gain in value, up 14.5% year over year.

The sole decliner among the top 10 Chinese exports was unknitted and non-crocheted clothing and accessories which declined by -2.7%.

Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of China’s Most Valuable Export Products further down near the bottom of this article.


Searchable List of China’s Most Valuable Export Products

At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, China’s top export products are mobile phones followed by computers then integrated electronic circuits.

The following searchable table displays 200 of the most in-demand goods shipped from the People’s Republic during 2018. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2017.

RankChina's Export Product2018 Value (US$)Change
1Phone system devices including smartphones$240.4 billion+9.7%
2Computers, optical readers$154.2 billion+8.6%
3Integrated circuits/microassemblies$84.7 billion+26%
4Computer parts, accessories$45.3 billion+33.2%
5Processed petroleum oils$35.8 billion+40.4%
6Automobile parts/accessories$34.8 billion+12.4%
7TV receivers/monitors/projectors$33.4 billion+6.2%
8Lamps, lighting, illuminated signs$30.6 billion+7.4%
9Solar power diodes/semi-conductors$29.1 billion+9.2%
10Miscellaneous furniture$28.1 billion+5.8%

Showing 1 to 10 of 200 entries

These 200 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$2.023 trillion or 81.1% by value for all products exported from China during 2018.

See alsoChina’s Top 10 Imports, China’s Top Trading Partners, Top Chinese Trade Balances, China’s Top 10 Major Export Companies and China’s Exported Services

Research Sources:

Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 1, 2019

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 26, 2019

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 1, 2019

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on March 1, 2019

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on July 23, 2019

Wikipedia, China. Accessed on March 1, 2019

Wikipedia, List of Companies of China. Accessed on March 1, 2019

World’s Richest Countries, Targeted research > Enriching insights > Global opportunities (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 19, 2019

Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on March 1, 2019

This paints a very different story than the public one that Xi has been talking about for the last year. There is no question that the trade war with the US has impacted China in many ways that have yet to come out publically.

Keep in mind that Xi's has staked his political carrier on winning this trade war. He is up against two very difficult opponents. The first is history; China has never taken a significant step back in dealing with the US on trade. They promise whatever it takes to get the deal signed and usually reneging on their promises. They have already used this tried and true method in this trade war with farm goods only to get hit with an additional 300 billion dollar worth of products getting additional tariffs.

Which brings us to part two, Trump a savvy real estate developer is probably the toughest area in the US. New York, New Jersey are merely horrible when it comes to developing and building. It is a hornets' nest of below-cost bids and claims and counterclaims which will make the subcontractors money at the end of the day.

I would hate to use the term easy with almost every other president, but for Trump. China is transparent to him. He knows that Xi is in a perfect storm of political pressure. Some are Xi's fault in his political contraction of democracy in China at the worse possible time. Those being the trade war and the swine contamination that has caused China to import millions of pounds of pork. Trump will use this to the advantage of the US, unlike his predecessors, who had skin in the game in China. The Bush and McConnell families are two of the main actors.

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