As the latest figures from the UK's Office for National Statistics show, the country's import landscape has been shifting towards China over the last few years. Imports of goods from the Asian powerhouse accounted for 16.1% of UK imports in Q1 2021, representing an increase of 65.6% compared to Q1 2018.
According to the ONS: "The recent increase in imports from China shows a continuation of the long-term trend of increasing imports since the beginning of records in 1997 although this was accelerated during the second half of 2020, likely because of the relatively limited impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Chinese exports. This, coupled with increasing demand for commodities produced by China such as electronic machinery likely explains the increasing imports seen in 2020". In addition to this, "UK imports of textile fabrics from China jumped in 2020, boosted by demand for face masks and personal protective equipment".
China overtook Germany as the UK's top goods import partner in Q2 2020. As described by the ONS: "Imports from Germany have declined since April 2019, coinciding with increased uncertainty around EU exit and, later in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic.". The recent decline in imports from Germany "were driven by road vehicles...which decreased by £0.7 billion (47.7%) between December 2020 and January 2021".