Is China the world’s top trader?

Is China the world’s top trader?
Is China the world’s top trader?
Is China the world’s top trader? Top

    Over the past several decades, Chinese trade has expanded at a breakneck pace. In 1995, the value of China’s imports and exports of goods totaled $280.9 billion or 3 percent of global trade. By 2017, its total trade in goods had jumped to $4.1 trillion or 12.4 percent of global trade. The US is the world’s second largest trader at 11.9 percent of total trade, followed by Germany at 7.9 percent.


    The World’s Top Traders (2017)

    Countries % of Global Imports % of Global Exports
    China 10.93 13.81
    US 14.28 9.43
    Germany 6.92 8.83
    Source: UN Comtrade

    The value of China’s exports in goods annually surpasses the amount it imports from the rest of the world.1 In 2017, China exported $2.26 trillion in goods while it imported $1.84 trillion. The majority of China’s surplus comes from trade with the US and Hong Kong. China exported $430.3 billion worth of goods to the US in 2017 (19 percent of all its exports), but only imported $154.4 billion (8.4 percent of all its imports). In the case of Hong Kong, China exported $279.2 billion in 2017 (12.3 percent) and imported $7.3 billion (0.4 percent).

    The stacked area chart below depicts the value of China’s imports and exports with the world. The trend line represents China’s global trade balance. Hover over the interactive to see additional details.


    China’s Global Trade Balance



      China’s trade with the rest of the world is more balanced. When excluding trade with the US and Hong Kong, China exported $1.68 trillion and imported $1.55 trillion in goods in 2017. Use the tool below to explore China’s trade surplus with key partners besides the US and Hong Kong. The interactive can also be used to explore the economies with which China has a trade deficit, such as South Korea. The customize option allows users to compare up to nine trading partners of interest.


      Breaking Down the Rest of China’s Trade


      Explore China's bilateral trade. Sort by:

      To view the full dataset, please view on a desktop computer.


      It is also important to consider the value of China’s trade in services. As China’s economy has matured, the demand for services has grown. Between 2000 and 2017, the value of services imported by China grew from $36 billion to $469 billion.


      China’s Trade in Services

      Much of these services come from advanced economies. In 2017, China’s trade in services with the US totaled $75 billion, which makes up between 10-12 percent of total trade between the two economic powerhouses. In contrast to their trade in goods, trade in services tips heavily in favor of the US. China imported $57.6 billion in services from the US in 2017 while it exported only $17.4 billion to the US.

      Hong Kong and the European Union are also major services providers. Services imports from Hong Kong hit $39.6 billion in 2017. China imported $42.9 billion in services from the EU in 2016.  ChinaPower

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      1. Since 1994, China has maintained a net trade surplus.