In 2009, China overtook Germany as the largest exporting nation worldwide. Since 2014, China is not only the world’s largest exporter, but also the largest trading nation in terms of the sum of its exports and imports. In 2019, China’s trade surplus stood at around 422 billion U.S. dollars and its exports of goods totaled a record high of almost 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars. In the same year, China’s export of goods and services constituted 17.4 percent of GDP. The economy is considered to be relatively open if a country’s exports are around 15 percent or more of GDP.
In 2019, China’s major export goods were automatic data processing machines and components, followed by clothes and clothing accessories, mobile phones, textiles, and integrated circuits. Travel and transportation services were among most exported service categories in China that year.
With exports amounting to almost three trillion yuan, the European Union was China’s top export market in 2019. Among EU Member States, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and France were the leading importers of Chinese goods. The United States came in second after the EU with nearly 2.9 trillion yuan worth of exports from China. These two largest export regions accounted for over a third of China’s total exports.
China’s notorious trade surplus has decreased significantly since 2015 indicating that the country can no longer majorly rely on exports to boost its economy, but rather focus on a more sustainable balance of trade. A number of economists and analysts are now talking about China’s re-balancing of demand towards domestic consumption and eventually a shift to a near-zero balance of trade.
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