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China Commodity Imports & Exports: How China Continues To Dominate World Trade

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China Economy Overview

Modern China dominates world trade following major reforms, introduced in 1978, that were more focused on market-oriented economic development.

The nations economy is ranked #2 in the world after the United States, but China has been the world’s #1 biggest exporter of goods since 2009.

China accounts for a significant proportion of global trade in natural resources such as aluminum, coal, copper, and iron ore.

In this guide, we give you an overview of China’s economy, including the country’s primary imports and exports.

China’s Top Exports

Here is a breakdown of the most important products exported by China, both commodities and other notable exports.

Commodity Exports

  • Refined petroleum – $23.9 billion
  • Plywood – $4.12 billion
  • Petroleum gas – $2.37 billion
  • Tea – $1.75 billion

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Other Notable Exports

  • Broadcasting equipment – $223 billion
  • Computers – $156 billion
  • Office machine parts – $86.8 billion
  • Integrated circuits – $120 billion
  • Telephones – $51 billion
  • Other Cloth Articles – $60.7 billion

Did You Know? The total annual value of the country’s exports equates to approximately $1,800 for every Chinese resident.

China’s top three export destinations are the United States ($499 billion), Hong Kong ($282 billion), and Japan ($155 billion).

Hong Kong and the United States are also the fastest-growing export markets, with the Netherlands in the third place.

China’s Top Imports

Total imports of $1.55 trillion make China the second-largest trade destination in the world. Here is a breakdown of the most important products imported by China, both commodities and other notable imports.

Commodity Imports

Other Notable Imports

  • Integrated circuits – $144 billion
  • Cars – $42 billion
  • Vehicle parts – $23.9 billion
  • Planes, helicopters, and/or spacecraft – $7.45 billion

China’s agricultural sector has become increasingly more dependent on imports over the last decade, in particular oil-bearing crops such as soybeans.

GDP of China

China’s GDP is estimated at $14.7 trillion, which ranks it at number 2 in the world behind the United States at $20.95 trillion. China’s GDP per capita is $10,434.

Did you know? Between 2008 and 2018, the GDP grew by 196%.

Details on China’s Imports & Exports


China is the largest cotton spinner in the world. Its textile industry is also the biggest globally in terms of overall production and exports. China is the biggest importer of raw cotton (the United States is the biggest exporter), and twenty-four Chinese provinces grow cotton. The industry is responsible for employing about 300 million people.


The Asia Pacific region is the largest tea producer and China plays a pivotal role in global tea production.

Bad weather and cold temperatures can have a notable impact on tea production and has affected growth rates in certain years.

The Chinese government abandoned its system of quotas and licensing restrictions on tea exports in 2006. This has seen a rise in private companies in the market alongside state-owned companies.


The annual production of rice accounts for almost half of the country’s total grain output.

China is responsible for about 30% of global rice production. Rice yields in China have risen significantly since the introduction of scientifically-bred high-yield dwarf rice that has proven resilient in cold and adverse weather conditions. Even so, China is also the world’s biggest importer of rice – to the value of $1.72 billion annually.


China is now emerging as one of the biggest importers of soybeans and has signed contracts that maintains its commitment to import billions of dollars of soybeans from the United States.

Iron Ore

China is the biggest importer of iron ore by some margin. Imports total around $99 billion annually, which is over 60% of total global iron ore imports.

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All currency is reported in US dollars.

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