China’s Top 10 Exports

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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$2.272 trillion worth of goods around the globe in 2017. That dollar amount reflects a 2.8% gain since 2013 and an 8.3% increase from 2016 to 2017.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, China’s exported goods and services represent 19.6% of total Chinese economic output or Gross Domestic Product. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

From a continental perspective, about half (48.5%) of Chinese exports by value were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 22% were sold to North American importers. China shipped another 18.9% worth to clients in Europe, 4.2% to Latin America (excluding Mexico) plus the Caribbean with 4.1% of China’s total exported goods arriving in Africa.

Given China’s population of 1.379 billion people, its total $2.272 trillion in 2017 exports translates to roughly $1,650 for every resident in the East Asian sovereign state.

China’s unemployment rate was 3.9% as of December 2017 down from 4.02% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.

China’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Chinese global shipments during 2017. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from China.

At the more granular 4-digit HTS code basis, China’s most valuable export goods are mobile phones trailed by computers, integrated electronic circuits, computer parts or accessories, television receivers, monitors and projectors then automobile parts or accessories.

  1. Electrical machinery, equipment: US$599 billion (26.4% of total exports)
  2. Machinery including computers: $382.9 billion (16.9%)
  3. Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: $89.8 billion (4%)
  4. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $73.6 billion (3.2%)
  5. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $72 billion (3.2%)
  6. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $70.6 billion (3.1%)
  7. Plastics, plastic articles: $70.6 billion (3.1%)
  8. Vehicles: $67.4 billion (3%)
  9. Articles of iron or steel: $57.3 billion (2.5%)
  10. Toys, games: $55.3 billion (2.4%)

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

Toys and games represent the fastest-growing among China’s top 10 export categories from 2016 to 2017, up 26.4%.

In second place for improving export sales was the 13.3% increase for the plastics and plastic articles category.

Made-in-China vehicles posted the third-fastest gain in value up 12% year over year, closely f0ollowed by machinery including computers up by 11.4%.

The only decliner among the top 10 Chinese exports was knitted or crocheted clothing and accessories which decreased by -3.3%


Overall China posted a $430.8 billion trade surplus in 2017 down by -15.5% from $509.7 billion during 2016 but up by 66.3% from $259 billion 5 years earlier in 2013.

The following types of Chinese product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports. In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.

  1. Machinery including computers: US$213.1 billion (Up by 8.7% since 2016)
  2. Electrical machinery, equipment: $143.5 billion (Up by 2.3%)
  3. Furniture, bedding, lighting , signs, prefab buildings: $86.1 billion (Up by 2.2%)
  4. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $69.8 billion (Up by 1.9%)
  5. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $69.2 billion (Down by -4%)
  6. Toys, games: $53.2 billion (Up by 27.2%)
  7. Articles of iron or steel: $47.3 billion (Up by 11.7%)
  8. Footwear: $44.8 billion (Up by 1.5%)
  9. Leather/animal gut articles: $26.5 billion (Up by 5.3%)
  10. Miscellaneous textiles, worn clothing: $26 billion (Up by 3.6%)

China has highly positive net exports in the international trade of machinery including computers. In turn, these cashflows indicate China’s strong competitive advantages under the machinery-related category.


Below are exports from China that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country China’s goods trail Chinese importer spending on foreign products.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: US-$212.1 billion (Up by 41.7% since 2016)
  2. Ores, slag, ash: -$124.7 billion (Up by 32.3%)
  3. Oil seeds: -$41.9 billion (Up by 17.5%)
  4. Copper: -$34.7 billion (Up by 26.4%)
  5. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$26.8 billion (Up by 6.2%)
  6. Aircraft, spacecraft: -$22.5 billion (Up by 15.8%)
  7. Woodpulp: -$21.1 billion (Up by 23.1%)
  8. Pharmaceuticals: -$17.9 billion (Up by 30%)
  9. Vehicles: -$11.9 billion (Up by 4.5%)
  10. Wood: -$9.7 billion (Up by 59.7%)

China has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels-related products particularly crude oil, petroleum gas and coal.

These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate China’s competitive disadvantages in the international mineral fuels-related market, but also represent key opportunities for China to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations.


Chinese Export Companies

China placed 149 corporations on the Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of the major Chinese export companies that Forbes included:

  • PetroChina (oil, gas)
  • Sinopec-China Petroleum (oil, gas)
  • SAIC Motor (cars, trucks)
  • Dongfeng Motor Group (cars, trucks)
  • BYD (cars, trucks)
  • Gree Electric Appliances (household appliances)
  • Midea Group Co. Ltd. (household appliances)
  • Tsingtao Brewery (beverages)
  • Sinopharm Group (pharmaceuticals)
  • Aluminum Corporation of China (aluminum)
  • Dongfang Electric (electrical equipment)

According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following smaller companies are also examples of leading Chinese exporters:

  • APLL (beddings, clothing)
  • UPS SCS China (chairs, beddings)
  • Winners Products Engineering (cooking appliances, sheets, charcoal)
  • Maersk Logistics China (footwear, bedding, clothing)
  • Carven Industries (furniture, building stone)

China’s capital city is Beijing.

Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level.

See also China’s Top 10 Major Export Companies, Top Chinese Trade Balances, Highest Value Chinese Export Products, China’s Top 10 Imports and Highest Value Chinese Import Products

Research Sources:
Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on April 21, 2018

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on April 21, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on April 21, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 21, 2018

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on April 21, 2018

Wikipedia, China. Accessed on April 21, 2018

Wikipedia, List of Companies of China. Accessed on April 21, 2018

Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on April 21, 2018