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$2.494 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.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, China’s exported goods and services represent 20.4% of total Chinese economic output or Gross Domestic Product. That percentage include re-exports. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

From a continental perspective, about half (47.8%) of Chinese exports 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.

China’s unemployment rate was 3.8% as of December 2018 down from 3.9% 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 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.

Advantages

Overall China posted a $359.2 billion trade surplus in 2018 down by -14.4% from $419.6 billion in black ink during 2017 and down by -6.2% from $383.1 billion five years earlier in 2014.

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$227.6 billion (Up by 6.5% since 2017)
  2. Electrical machinery, equipment: $142.9 billion (Up by 1.8%)
  3. Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: $92.4 billion (Up by 8.4%)
  4. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $70.1 billion (Up by 1.6%)
  5. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $67.3 billion (Down by -3.2%)
  6. Articles of iron or steel: $54.8 billion (Up by 17.3%)
  7. Toys, games: $54.6 billion (Up by 3.9%)
  8. Footwear: $42.5 billion (Down by -4.6%)
  9. Miscellaneous textiles, worn clothing: $27.4 billion (Up by 5.8%)
  10. Leather/animal gut articles: $26.4 billion (Up by 0.5%)

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.

Opportunities

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$301.2 billion (Up by 40.6% since 2017)
  2. Ores, slag, ash: -$134.7 billion (Up by 7.1%)
  3. Gems, precious metals: -$41.8 billion (Down by -11.6%)
  4. Copper: -$40.7 billion (Up by 16.9%)
  5. Oil seeds: -$40.7 billion (Down by -2.9%)
  6. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$31.1 billion (Up by 15.8%)
  7. Aircraft, spacecraft: -$26.1 billion (Up by 19.4%)
  8. Woodpulp: -$23.9 billion (Up by 13.3%)
  9. Pharmaceuticals: -$19.0 billion (Up by 5.7%)
  10. Meat: -$10.2 billion (Up by 18.5%)

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.

Companies

Chinese Export Companies

China placed about 150 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)


 

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%
11Cases, handbags, wallets$27.4 billion+2.9%
12Electrical converters/power units$26.7 billion+5.7%
13Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)$25.9 billion+11.2%
14Liquid crystal/laser/optical tools$25.7 billion-9.5%
15Models, puzzles, miscellaneous toys$25.5 billion+6.1%
16Insulated wire/cable$23.5 billion+6.4%
17Women's clothing (not knit or crochet)$23 billion-7.4%
18Electric water heaters, hair dryers$21.1 billion+7.7%
19Footwear (rubber or plastic)$20 billion-6.8%
20Miscellaneous plastic items$19.5 billion+9.8%
21Jerseys, pullovers (knit or crochet)$18.1 billion+4.8%
22Printing machinery$17.7 billion-2.2%
23Cruise/cargo ships, barges$16.8 billion-6.2%
24Taps, valves, similar appliances$16.6 billion+13.5%
25Air conditioners$16.5 billion+11.6%
26Microphones/headphones/amps$16.3 billion+0.7%
27Lower-voltage switches, fuses$16.1 billion+7.6%
28Air or vacuum pumps$15.4 billion+12.8%
29Printed circuits$15.3 billion+9.4%
30Rubber tires (new)$15.1 billion+6.7%
31Electric storage batteries$14.8 billion+27.8%
32Women's clothing (knit or crochet)$14.6 billion-3.9%
33Footwear (textile)$13.8 billion+2.6%
34Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)$13.8 billion+12%
35Synthetic yarn woven fabrics$13.6 billion+12%
36Table games, bowling equipment$13.4 billion-4.1%
37Jewelry$13.3 billion+22.5%
38Electrical machinery$13.2 billion+22%
39TV/radio/radar device parts$13.2 billion+0.7%
40Men's suits, trousers (not knit or crochet)$12.4 billion+3.3%
41Electric motors, generators$11.8 billion+9.8%
42Miscellaneous iron and steel structures$11.5 billion+7%
43Pneumatic hand tool$10.8 billion+11.4%
44TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras$10.7 billion+18.2%
45Transport containers$10.4 billion+24.4%
46Sports equipment$10.4 billion+7.4%
47Refrigerators, freezers$10.1 billion+12.6%
48Other than warp-knit fabrics$9.7 billion+7%
49Base metal mountings, fittings$9.6 billion+8%
50Mattresses, quilts$9.5 billion+12.4%
51Plastic packing goods, lids, caps$9.3 billion+10.8%
52Flat-rolled other alloy steel products$9.2 billion+6%
53Plastic tableware, kitchenware, toiletry$9.2 billion+13.2%
54Machinery parts$9.1 billion+23.1%
55Footwear (leather)$9.1 billion+0.5%
56Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels$9 billion+17%
57Miscellaneous iron or steel items$9 billion+16.5%
58Cars$8.6 billion+20.2%
59Heterocyclics, nucleic acids$8.6 billion+18.2%
60Linens$8.5 billion+4.6%
61Filament/discharge lamps$8.4 billion-8.3%
62Women's coats, jackets (not knit or crochet)$8.2 billion-8.9%
63T-shirts, vests (knit or crochet)$8 billion-2%
64Liquid pumps and elevators$7.9 billion+13.2%
65Transmission shafts, gears, clutches$7.8 billion+16%
66Motorcycles$7.6 billion+13.4%
67Woven cotton fabrics$7.5 billion-1.6%
68Iron and steel tables, household items$7.2 billion+11.9%
69Aluminum plates, sheets, strips$7.2 billion+37.3%
70Polyacetal/ether/carbonates$7 billion+34.1%
71Centrifuges, filters and purifiers$6.9 billion+5%
72Miscellaneous machinery$6.7 billion+24.7%
73Electro-medical equipment (e.g. xrays)$6.7 billion+12.4%
74Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$6.5 billion+8.1%
75Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers$6.5 billion+27.7%
76Miscellaneous articles, dress patterns$6.4 billion+10.8%
77Men's coats, jackets (not knit or crochet)$6.3 billion+7.2%
78Light vessels, fire boats, floating docks$6.2 billion+80.3%
79Stockings, hosiery (knit or crochet)$6.2 billion+7.7%
80Piston engine parts$6 billion+12.4%
81Electromechanic domestic appliances$6 billion+6.9%
82Carnival items, magic tricks$6 billion+7%
83Ceramic sinks, washbasins, baths$5.9 billion+38.2%
84Motorcycle parts/accessories$5.9 billion+7.1%
85Porcelain/china household items$5.8 billion+7.6%
86Men's suits,trousers (knit or crochet)$5.8 billion+0.4%
87Plastic tile or roll coverings$5.6 billion+29.7%
88Alloy steel bars, rods$5.6 billion-7.2%
89Ball, roller bearings$5.6 billion+10.5%
90Synthetic filament yarn$5.6 billion+22.1%
91Laminated wood (including plywood, veneer panels)$5.6 billion+8.9%
92Textile fabrics with plastics$5.5 billion+7%
93Iron or steel tubes, pipes$5.4 billion+22.6%
94Women's underwear, pajamas (knit or crochet)$5.4 billion+5.4%
95Flat-rolled stainless steel items$5.3 billion+1.1%
96Packaged insecticides/fungicides/herbicides$5.2 billion+9.8%
97Electrical capacitators$5.2 billion+31.9%
98Vacuum cleaners$5 billion+15.2%
99Monument/building stones, art$5 billion+6.5%
100Iron or steel pipe fittings$4.9 billion+21.2%
101Temperature-change machines$4.9 billion+6.6%
102Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)$4.8 billion+23%
103Moulding boxes/base$4.8 billion+10.1%
104Electric motor parts$4.8 billion+12.2%
105Chemical industry products/residuals$4.7 billion+21%
106Lifting/loading machinery$4.7 billion+12.6%
107Fertilizer mixes$4.7 billion+29.8%
108Crustaceans, molluscs (preserved/prepared)$4.6 billion+13.6%
109Paper containers, cellulose wadding$4.5 billion+14.8%
110Electrical lighting/signaling equpment, defrosters$4.5 billion+8.9%
111Fish fillets, pieces$4.5 billion+1.6%
112Unrecorded sound media$4.5 billion+5.5%
113Unglazed ceramic flags, tiles$4.4 billion-0.3%
114Rubber/plastic article making machines$4.4 billion+8.9%
115Aluminum foil (thin)$4.3 billion+19.5%
116Regulate/control instruments$4.3 billion-0.4%
117Trailers$4.2 billion+19%
118Machinery brooms, brushes$4.2 billion+6%
119Furskin clothing and accessories$4.1 billion+17.3%
120Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates$4.1 billion+7.8%
121Other measuring/testing machines$4.1 billion+5.3%
122Garments from special fabric (not knit or crochet)$4.1 billion+2.5%
123Iron and steel stoves, barbecues$4.1 billion+4.4%
124Electric generating sets, converters$4.1 billion+22.2%
125Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches$4.1 billion+9.7%
126Locks, lock-keys$4 billion+4.9%
127Dried vegetables$4 billion+1.1%
128Tracksuits, swimwear (not knit or crochet)$4 billion+2.8%
129Pile/terry fabrics$4 billion+17.4%
130Bras, corsets (not knit or crochet)$4 billion-1.2%
131Medication mixes in dosage$3.9 billion+28.1%
132Carbon electrodes, brushes$3.9 billion+108.6%
133Video recording equipment$3.9 billion+4.5%
134Telecommunication receivers$3.9 billion-12.5%
135Spray/dispersing mechanical appliances$3.9 billion+11.1%
136Washing machines$3.8 billion+5.6%
137Artificial flowers, foilage, fruits$3.7 billion+18.5%
138Bridge structures, parts$3.7 billion+13%
139Blankets, travel rugs$3.7 billion+0.6%
140Fish, caviar (preserved/prepared)$3.7 billion+18.8%
141Concrete/artificial stone items$3.7 billion+27.1%
142Interchangeable hand/machine tools$3.6 billion+13.2%
143Amino-compounds (oxygen)$3.5 billion+13.9%
144Electric sound/visual signal bells or alarms$3.5 billion+5%
145Turbo-jets$3.5 billion-11.8%
146Antibiotics$3.5 billion+11.1%
147Provitamins, vitamins$3.4 billion+8.8%
148Miscellaneous aluminum items$3.4 billion+15.3%
149Miscellaneous iron or steel tubes, pipes$3.4 billion+14.9%
150Derricks, cranes$3.4 billion+5.3%
151Mechano-therapy appliances$3.4 billion+15.3%
152Bicycles, other non-motorized cycles$3.3 billion+4.6%
153Moluscs$3.3 billion-3.4%
154Self-adhesive plastic in rolls$3.3 billion+13.3%
155Trucks$3.2 billion-4.6%
156Chemicals used in electronics$3.2 billion-14.6%
157Wide knit or crochet fabrics$3.2 billion+9.9%
158Wigs, false beards, eyelashes$3.2 billion+19.8%
159Piston engines$3.1 billion+21.3%
160Magnets including electro-magnets$3.1 billion+11.8%
161Glassware$3.1 billion+3.3%
162Other organo-inorganic compounds$3 billion+36.4%
163Heterocyclics, oxygen$3 billion+29.8%
164Coke, semi-coke$3 billion+39.7%
165Spectacles, goggles$3 billion-0.2%
166Coated/laminated non-wovens$3 billion+12.6%
167Aluminum bars/rods$2.9 billion+19.2%
168Miscellaneous heterocyclics$2.9 billion+15.5%
169Synthetic organic coloring$2.9 billion+11.9%
170Miscellaneous preserved fruits$2.9 billion+6.3%
171Men's shirts (not knit or crochet)$2.9 billion+0.4%
172Miscellaneous engines, motors$2.9 billion+38.3%
173Whole fish (frozen)$2.9 billion+5%
174Gloves, mitts (knit or crochet)$2.9 billion+12.7%
175Sort/screen/washing machinery$2.9 billion+6.8%
176Fork-lift trucks$2.8 billion+25.4%
177Miscellaneous wooden articles$2.8 billion+16.4%
178Coated paper$2.8 billion-10.4%
179Carboxylic acids$2.8 billion+6.1%
180Knitted/crocheted hats, headgear$2.8 billion+5.1%
181Woven fabrics (artificial staple fibres)$2.8 billion-9.8%
182Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings$2.8 billion+12.9%
183Other coloring matter, luminophores$2.7 billion+14.6%
184Camp items including tents, sails$2.7 billion+11.2%
185Base metal hand tools$2.6 billion+13.6%
186Aluminum table/kitchen, other household items$2.6 billion+6%
187Miscellaneous/adhesive paper$2.6 billion+23.8%
188Polycarboxylic acids$2.6 billion+37.8%
189Safety glasses$2.6 billion+6.9%
190Coiled other alloy steel bars, rods$2.6 billion-13.9%
191Saturated acyclic mono acids$2.5 billion+46.4%
192Men's underwear, pajamas (knit or crochet)$2.5 billion+2.1%
193Glass fibers$2.5 billion+8.5%
194Aircraft, spacecraft$2.5 billion+33.8%
195Machinery for making semi-conductors$2.5 billion+20.6%
196Hydrocarbon derivatives$2.5 billion+21.8%
197Lenses, prisms, mirrors$2.5 billion+11.2%
198Woven fabrics (85%+ cotton)$2.5 billion+9%
199Vulcanized rubber items$2.5 billion+10.3%
200Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations$2.5 billion+21.7%

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 also China’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 March 1, 2019

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on March 1, 2019

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

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

Wikipedia, China. Accessed on March 1, 2019

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

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