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Foreign trade in figures

Thanks to its enormous trade surplus over the past few years, China has become the world's largest exporter and ranks second among the world’s largest importers. Despite its strict policies, the country is fairly open to foreign trade, which represented 37% of its GDP in 2022 (World Bank, 2023). China's main exports include Electrical and electronic equipment (27%), machinery, nuclear reactors, boilers (16%), furniture, lighting signs, prefabricated buildings (4,1%), plastics (3,9%), toys (3%), optical, photo, technical, medical apparatus (2,9%), vehicles other than railway, tramway (3.6%), articles of iron and steel (2,8%). On the other hand, the country mainly imports Electrical and electronic equipment (25%), Mineral fuels, oils, distillation products (15%), machinery, nuclear reactors, boilers (8,6%), iron ores slag and ash (10%), optical, photo, technical, medical apparatus (4,1%), vehicles other than railway, tramway (3.2%).

The country's main partners include the United States, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Australia and Germany. Tensions in the U.S. - China economic relationship have heightened business uncertainties since 2020, given that the US is the country's main trade partner. China's trade surplus dropped to USD 78.01 billion in December 2022 from a revised USD 93.21 billion in the same month the prior year and compared to market forecasts of USD 76.2 billion. The data came in amid weakening global and domestic demand. Exports plunged 9.9%, the largest decline in nearly three years, while imports fell at a softer 7.5%, the third straight month of decrease. Considering 2022 full year, the country's trade surplus widened 31 percent year-on-year to USD 876.91 billion, the highest since records started in 1950, as exports rose 7% and imports increased by only 1%. (China General Administration of Customs, 2023).

Similar tensions were at play with Australia although with less consequences for China. However, the Chinese government has been adopting looser economic policies to mitigate mounting risks to future growth. On the 15th of November 2020 China has signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with 14 other Indo-Pacific countries. This free trade agreement is the largest trade deal in history, covering 30 per cent of the global economy. It includes the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN : Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) and ASEAN’s free trade agreement partners (Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and Republic of Korea). The RCEP covers goods, services, investment, economic and technical cooperation. It also creates new rules for electronic commerce, intellectual property, government procurement, competition, and small and medium sized enterprises.

Trade has become an increasingly important part of China’s overall economy, and it has been a significant tool used for economic modernisation. As reported by WTO in 2023, exports of goods in 2021 were USD 3,363.8 billion and imports USD 2,688.6 billion, while exports and imports of services in 2021 reached USD 390.6 billion and USD 438 billion respectively. China reported an overall 40% increase in exports and 16% decrease in imports for 2021.

Foreign Trade Values 20172018201920202021
Imports of goods (milions USD) 1,843,7932,135,7482,078,3862,057,2172,688,634
Exports of goods (milions USD) 2,263,3452,486,6952,499,4572,590,2213,363,835
Imports of services (milions USD) 464,133520,683496,967377,528441,312
Exports of services (milions USD) 226,389269,697281,651278,084392,198

Font: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

Foreign trade indicators 20172018201920202021
Foreign trade (in % of GDP) 37.637.635.934.837.5
Trade balance (milions USD) 475,941380,074392,993511,103562,724
Trade Balance including service (milions USD) 217,01087,905131,844358,573462,808
Imports of goods and services (in % of GDP) 17.918.517.516.217.4
Exports of goods and services (in % of GDP) 19.719.118.418.620.0

Font: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 20222023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)2026 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) -1.3-
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) -

Font: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated data

International economic cooperation
China is a member of the following international economic organisations: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (dialogue partner of ASEAN Plus Three), G-20, G-24 (observer), G-5, G-77, IMF, Pacific Alliance (observer), WTO, among others. For the full list of economic and other international organisations in which participates China click here. International organisation membership of China is also outlined here.
Free Trade Agreements
China is a member of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) signed on 15 November 2020. The complete and up-to-date list of Free Trade Agreements signed by China can be consulted here.

Main country partners

Main customers
(% of exports)
Estats Units 16.2%
Hong Kong SAR, Xina 8.3%
Japó 4.8%
Corea del Sud 4.5%
Vietnam 4.1%
Mostrar més països 62.1%
Main suppliers
(% of imports)
Corea del Sud 7.4%
Japó 6.8%
Estats Units 6.6%
Austràlia 5.2%
Xina picto information 4.5%
Mostrar més països 69.5%

Font: Comtrade, 2023. tableau-comtrade-note-arrondi.


Main products

3,593.6 milliards USD Main exports
Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular...Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular networks or for other wireless networks; other apparatus for the transmission or reception of voice, images or other data, incl. apparatus for communication in a wired or wireless network [such as a local or wide area network]; parts thereof (excl. than transmission or reception apparatus of heading 8443, 8525, 8527 or 8528) 7.7%
Automatic data-processing machines and units...Automatic data-processing machines and units thereof; magnetic or optical readers, machines for transcribing data onto data media in coded form and machines for processing such data, n.e.s. 5.2%
Electronic integrated circuits; parts thereofElectronic integrated circuits; parts thereof 4.3%
Diodes, transistors and similar semiconductor...Diodes, transistors and similar semiconductor devices; photosensitive semiconductor devices, incl. photovoltaic cells whether or not assembled in modules or made up into panels (excl. photovotaic generators); light emitting diodes; mounted piezoelectric crystals; parts thereof 1.8%
Electric accumulators, incl. separators therefor,...Electric accumulators, incl. separators therefor, whether or not square or rectangular; parts thereof (excl. spent and those of unhardened rubber or textiles) 1.6%
Other products 79.4%
2,716.0 milliards USD Main imports
Electronic integrated circuits; parts thereofElectronic integrated circuits; parts thereof 15.3%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 13.5%
Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron...Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron pyrites 4.7%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 3.3%
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought...Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 2.8%
Other products 60.3%

Font: Comtrade, 2023. tableau-comtrade-note-arrondi.


To go further, check out our service title_service__flux-import-export.html-court.


Main services

208.0 milliards USD Main services exported in 2020
377.6 milliards USD Main services imported in 2020

Font: source-tableau-top-services, 2023. tableau-comtrade-note-arrondi.

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