China's Market in Numbers: China's imports

People usually keep track of their spending throughout the year and know exactly where their money went. Well, let's dive into China's imports and see what it buys in a year.

China's annual import bills

First, let's look at how much the country spent last year.

In 2018, China's imports topped 2.1 trillion U.S. dollars, accounting for 10.9 percent of the world's total and ranking second in the world, behind the U.S. 

China's imports were up 15.8 percent from 2017, scoring double-digit growth for the second year in a row. And they look set to keep growing. 

China imports from a wide variety of countries and is constantly finding new trading partners. Just to give an example, more than 3,600 companies from five continents participated in the 1st China International Import Expo (CIIE) in 2018. Some 400,000 overseas buyers also attended.

The first China International Import Expo in 2018. /VCG Photo

The first China International Import Expo in 2018. /VCG Photo

According to Bai Ming, a professor from Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce, the CIIE is certainly a place of for making deals, but more importantly, for exhibition. 

"In this case, our domestic enterprises and users consumers could have a chance to get to know foreign products, and the sellers and buyers could develop have closer ties," said Bai. "In this way, the two sides can carry out many economic and trade cooperation after the expo."

China's 'shopping cart'

Now that we've seen how much China spends, let's look at its "shopping cart" and what it likes to buy the most.

In 2018, China imported over 671 billion U.S. dollars-worth of high-tech products, up 15 percent from 2017.

Other top imports included electrical equipment, agricultural products, natural gas and crude oil, and cars.

Meeting the needs of China's economic transformation is key when it comes to deciding what it wants to import. Ensuring stable domestic production and a good quality of life for its people are also top priorities. 

A port in Nantong, Jiangsu. /VCG Photo

A port in Nantong, Jiangsu. /VCG Photo

Now at this year's CIIE, what changes will we see in China's "shopping cart"? 

"This year's CIIE has expanded in terms of scale: the exhibition hall is larger, the number of exhibitors has increased, and the product range is much bigger," said Dong Yan, the director of International Trade Research Office of Institute of World Economics and Politics in Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "This shows that the expo's global influence is constantly improving. At the same time, online and offline services provided at the expo are more modernized, while the expo itself has gradually advanced to become a well-known exhibition in the world."

Clearly, China's spending habits have an impact on the rest of the world.

Author: Wang Tianyu, Zhang Huimin

Copy editor: Sim Sim Wissgott

Cover photo designer: Sa Ren

Chief editor: Wang Dewei

Executive producer: Zhang Xiaohe

Supervisor: Mei Yan