China's merchandise exports have experienced tremendous growth since its entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001, reaching an estimated $3.6 trillion per year by the end of 2022. This article examines China's top export markets in 2022 and their changes since 2001, while also exploring the country's plans to rebalance its economy and decrease its reliance on exports, as well as its potential for continued export growth through initiatives like the One Belt, One Road and RCEP trade agreement.
In 2001, when China joined the World Trade Organization, the value of its merchandise exports stood at $266 billion. Over the next seven years, the country’s exports grew uninterrupted until the 2008 financial crisis caused a sharp decline in global trade.
This cycle would repeat again with consecutive growth until 2015 (another global trade slowdown), followed by slowed growth until 2020 (the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic).
But merchandise exports skyrocketed by 30% in 2021, and by the end of 2022 had grown to an estimated $3.6 trillion per year. That means China’s exports alone are bigger than the entire economies of countries like the UK, India, and France.
Which countries were receiving most of these merchandise exports? Here are China’s top export markets from 2022 and their change since 2001.
Will China’s Exports Continue to Grow?
Like the broader global economy, the Chinese economy is starting to re-adjust.
For one, the country is beginning to rebalance exports from its manufacturing-heavy mix to a more even allocation of both manufacturing and services. Secondly, the economy’s overall reliance on exports has decreased significantly from its highs in the mid-2000s, with an aim to increase domestic consumption and have a more self-sufficient economy overall.
That’s not to say that Chinese dominance on the world export stage is expected to waver. With far-reaching economic policies like the One Belt, One Road initiative and the RCEP trade agreement between 15 countries in Asia and Oceania, there are plenty of future growth avenues for Chinese exports.
As the country faces an unprecedented internal demographic shift in the coming decades, perhaps China’s robust export sector will be key to continued economic growth.