That dollar amount reflects a 44.1% gain compared to $2.494 trillion during 2018.
Year over year, the overall value of China’s exports rose 6.9% from $3.362 trillion in 2021.
Looking ahead to the first 9 months of 2023, China sold $2.52 trillion worth of exported products via international channels. The corresponding $3.36 trillion full-year projection suggests that China is on track for a -6.5% year-over-year decline in 2023 compared to 2022.
Please note that the rest of this article focuses on statistics for full year 2022.
According to exchange rate metrics from the International Monetary Fund, the Chinese yuan has depreciated by -1.8% against the US dollar since 2018 and fell by -4.5% from 2021 to 2022. China’s weaker local currency makes Chinese exports paid for in relatively stronger US dollars less expensive than in the prior years.
Mainland China’s biggest export products by value in 2022 were led by phone devices including smartphones, computers, electronic integrated circuits, solar power diodes and semi-conductors, then electric storage devices. In aggregate, those major exports account for almost one-fifth (18.9%) of the China’s overall exports sales. The commodities themselves suggest a fairly diversified range of exported goods.
China ranks among world-leading nations for exporting cell phones, electronic circuit components and automotive parts or accessories.
China’s Best Customers for its Exports
The latest available country-specific data shows that 57.1% of products exported from mainland China were bought by importers in: the United States of America (16.2% of China’s global total), Hong Kong (8.3%), Japan (4.8%), South Korea (4.5%), Vietnam (4.1%), India (3.3%), Netherlands (also 3.3%), Germany (3.2%), Malaysia (2.6%), Taiwan (2.3%), United Kingdom (2.3%) and Singapore (also 2.3%).
From a continental perspective, almost half (47.4%) of mainland China’s exports by value were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 20.7% were sold to importers in Europe. China shipped another 19.9% worth of goods to buyers in North America.
Smaller percentages went to Latin America (4.8%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, Africa (4.6%), and Oceania (2.6%) led by Australia and New Zealand.
Given China’s population of 1.4 billion people, its total $3.594 trillion in 2022 exported products translates to about $2,500 for every resident in the East Asian economic powerhouse. That per-capita dollar amount exceeds the average $2,150 one year earlier in 2021.
China’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups categorize the highest dollar value in Chinese global shipments during 2022. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from China.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$954.8 billion (26.6% of total exports)
- Machinery including computers: $552 billion (15.4%)
- Vehicles: $150.2 billion (4.2%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $143.5 billion (4%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: $130.9 billion (3.6%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $110.3 billion (3.1%)
- Toys, games: $103.3 billion (2.9%)
- Organic chemicals: $101.9 billion (2.8%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $90.9 billion (2.5%)
- Iron, steel: $77.3 billion (2.2%)
China’s top 10 exports accounted for just over two-thirds (67.2%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Vehicles was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 25.2% from 2021 to 2022.
In second place for improving export sales were organic chemicals via a 23.4% gain.
China’s shipments of articles made from iron or steel posted the third-fastest gain in value, up by 15.5%.
The lone decliner among China’s top 10 export categories was the furniture, bedding, lighting, signs and prefabricated buildings, incurring a -6.2% drop year over year.
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.
Products Creating China’s Greatest Trade Surpluses
Mainland China posted an overall $877.6 billion trade surplus in 2022, up by 27.9% from $686.1 billion in black ink during 2021.
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.
- Machinery including computers: US$349.8 billion (Up by 10.6% since 2021)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $310.1 billion (Up by 34.6%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: $128.1 billion (Down by -6%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $100.8 billion (Up by 18.8%)
- Toys, games: $100.5 billion (Up by 1.7%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $86.8 billion (Up by 6.1%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $71.5 billion (Up by 11.7%)
- Vehicles : $69.4 billion (Up by 106.4%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $68.3 billion (Up by 41.6%)
- Footwear: $55.8 billion (Up by 23.4%)
China has highly positive net exports in the international trade of machinery including computers as well as electronics. In turn, these cashflows indicate China’s strong competitive advantages under machinery-related categories.
Products Causing China’s Biggest Trade Deficits
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.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$471 billion (Up by 33.5% since 2021)
- Ores, slag, ash: -$220.8 billion (Down by -17.7%)
- Gems, precious metals: -$73.6 billion (Up by 53.1%)
- Oil seeds: -$65.4 billion (Up by 14.4%)
- Copper: -$58 billion (Up by 4.3%)
- Meat: -$29.9 billion (Down by -2.7%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$25.9 billion (Up by 683.5%)
- Woodpulp: -$22.1 billion (Up by 10.3%)
- Cereals: -$18.4 billion (Down by -2.6%)
- Perfumes, cosmetics: -$14.3 billion (Down by -19.6%)
China has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels-related products particularly crude oil, petroleum gas and coal.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate China’s competitive disadvantages in the international mineral fuels-related market, but also represent key opportunities for China to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations.
Mainland China’s Major Export Companies
China placed about 150 corporations on the Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of the major Chinese export companies that Forbes included.
- Aluminum Corporation of China (aluminum)
- BYD (cars, trucks)
- Dongfang Electric (electrical equipment)
- Dongfeng Motor Group (cars, trucks)
- Gree Electric Appliances (household appliances)
- Midea Group Co. Ltd. (household appliances)
- PetroChina (oil, gas)
- SAIC Motor (cars, trucks)
- Sinopec-China Petroleum (oil, gas)
- Sinopharm Group (pharmaceuticals)
- Tsingtao Brewery (beverages)
According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following smaller companies are also examples of leading Chinese exporters.
- APLL (beddings, clothing)
- Carven Industries (furniture, building stone)
- Maersk Logistics China (footwear, bedding, clothing)
- UPS SCS China (chairs, beddings)
- Winners Products Engineering (cooking appliances, sheets, charcoal)
Searchable List of China’s Most Valuable Export Products
At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, the following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from the People’s Republic during 2022. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2021.
|Rank||China's Export Product||Value (US$)||Change|
|1||Phone devices including smartphones||$238,088,761,000||-7.6%|
|2||Computers, optical readers||$187,904,868,000||-8.1%|
|4||Solar power diodes/semi-conductors||$65,880,033,000||+35%|
|5||Electric storage batteries||$57,227,987,000||+70.2%|
|7||Models, puzzles, miscellaneous toys||$48,356,191,000||+4.9%|
|8||Processed petroleum oils||$48,301,151,000||+48.7%|
|9||Electrical converters/power units||$47,478,844,000||+19.7%|
|10||Lamps, lighting, illuminated signs||$46,066,726,000||-6.6%|
|15||Cases, handbags, wallets||$35,570,573,000||+27.7%|
|16||Computer parts, accessories||$34,919,145,000||-5.6%|
|17||Miscellaneous plastic items||$34,881,282,000||-1.6%|
|18||Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)||$33,092,221,000||-11.7%|
|20||Electric water heaters, hair dryers||$29,846,697,000||-7.2%|
|21||Footwear (rubber or plastic)||$28,505,218,000||+25.2%|
|22||Women's clothing (not knit or crochet)||$25,695,429,000||+0.8%|
|23||Air or vacuum pumps||$24,873,428,000||+3.6%|
|24||Lower-voltage switches, fuses||$23,090,687,000||+1.4%|
|25||Jerseys, pullovers (knit or crochet)||$22,485,825,000||+7.3%|
|26||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$22,403,951,000||+7.7%|
|30||Table games, bowling equipment||$21,131,045,000||+20.6%|
|31||Synthetic yarn woven fabrics||$20,098,049,000||+17.4%|
|33||Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)||$19,483,966,000||-9.5%|
|34||Cruise/cargo ships, barges||$19,207,936,000||+0.3%|
|35||Miscellaneous iron and steel structures||$19,193,369,000||+20.3%|
|36||Rubber tires (new)||$18,879,762,000||+13%|
|37||Miscellaneous iron or steel items||$18,075,094,000||+19.9%|
|38||Heterocyclics, nucleic acids||$17,988,635,000||+43.2%|
|39||Women's clothing (knit or crochet)||$17,938,125,000||-2.1%|
|41||Plastic tableware, kitchenware, toiletry||$17,159,795,000||+12.7%|
|42||TV/radio/radar device parts||$16,064,255,000||-16.4%|
|43||Electric motors, generators||$15,862,978,000||+4.1%|
|47||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$15,179,788,000||+8.3%|
|49||Base metal mountings, fittings||$15,027,719,000||+0.8%|
|50||Specially designed containers||$14,681,800,000||-37.3%|
|52||Carnival items, magic tricks||$13,839,389,000||+6.9%|
|53||Pneumatic hand tool||$13,825,193,000||-16.6%|
|54||Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)||$13,364,948,000||+48.8%|
|55||Aluminum plates, sheets, strips||$13,069,722,000||+39.8%|
|56||Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels||$12,792,283,000||+16%|
|57||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$12,347,634,000||+2.4%|
|60||Iron and steel tables, household items||$11,865,232,000||-7%|
|63||Other than warp-knit fabrics||$11,769,588,000||+6.2%|
|64||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$11,672,785,000||+19%|
|65||Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$11,601,603,000||+250.3%|
|66||Men's suits, trousers (not knit or crochet)||$11,480,716,000||+24.8%|
|67||Liquid pumps and elevators||$11,470,590,000||+5%|
|69||Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers||$11,178,859,000||+20.1%|
|70||Miscellaneous articles, dress patterns||$11,158,575,000||-23.5%|
|72||Electromechanic domestic appliances||$11,077,883,000||-14.3%|
|73||Other diagnostic/lab reagents||$11,030,341,000||+440.6%|
|74||TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras||$10,620,225,000||-19.7%|
|75||Transmission shafts, gears, clutches||$10,598,506,000||+7.8%|
|76||Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)||$10,471,820,000||+4.2%|
|78||Flat-rolled stainless steel items||$10,275,743,000||+38.1%|
|81||T-shirts, vests (knit or crochet)||$9,346,519,000||+9.1%|
|82||Ceramic sinks, washbasins, baths||$9,307,791,000||-5.5%|
|84||Women's coats, jackets (not knit or crochet)||$8,687,878,000||+13.6%|
|85||Iron or steel tubes, pipes||$8,225,744,000||+61%|
|86||Plastic tile or roll coverings||$8,159,951,000||-5.7%|
|87||Porcelain tableware, other household items||$8,114,055,000||+9.5%|
|88||Piston engine parts||$8,053,647,000||+9.5%|
|89||Paper containers, cellulose wadding||$7,708,733,000||+8.6%|
|90||Synthetic filament yarn||$7,703,814,000||+11.6%|
|91||Chemical industry products/residuals||$7,487,804,000||+12.1%|
|92||Electric motor parts||$7,438,906,000||-5.1%|
|94||Women's underwear, pajamas (knit or crochet)||$7,297,624,000||-3.7%|
|95||Stockings, hosiery (knit or crochet)||$7,137,920,000||+11.6%|
|96||Machine brushes, brooms||$7,031,182,000||+12.1%|
|97||Textile fabrics with plastics||$7,017,027,000||+14.6%|
|98||Ball, roller bearings||$6,945,242,000||+3.9%|
|99||Artificial flowers, foliage, fruits||$6,883,849,000||-6%|
|100||Products with tobacco, nicotine||$6,788,895,000||+0%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$2.38 trillion or about two-thirds (66.2%) by value for all products exported from mainland China during 2022.
In macroeconomic terms, China’s total exported goods represent 11.9% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2022 ($30.074 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 11.9% for exports to overall GDP per PPP in 2022 compares to 11.1% for 2021. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for China’s total economic performance, albeit based on short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. China’s unemployment rate averaged 4.2% for 2022, up from an average 3.96% in 2021 per the International Monetary Fund.
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, Taiwan’s Top 10 Exports, Macau’s Top 10 Exports and Hong Kong’s Top 10 Exports
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Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on November 27, 2023
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (Domestic Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on November 27, 2023
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on November 27, 2023
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on November 27, 2023
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on November 27, 2023
Richest Country Reports, Key Statistics Powering Global Wealth. Accessed on November 27, 2023
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Wikipedia, List of Companies of China. Accessed on November 27, 2023
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on November 27, 2023