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China-U.S. trade relations - statistics & facts

In 2019, China’s merchandise trade surplus stood at 422 billion U.S. dollars, increasing once again for the first time since 2015. Being an economy heavily reliant on export, China ranked first among countries with the highest trade surplus in 2018, outperforming Germany by approximately 76 billion U.S. dollars. The United States, on the other hand, with imports exceeding exports by approximately 950 billion U.S. dollars that year, ranked first among leading import countries worldwide.

With exports amounting to 2.89 trillion yuan during 2019, the United States was China’s second most important export market after the European Union. In 2018, China’s major exports were machinery and transport equipment, followed by miscellaneous products, textile, industrial products, rubber, minerals and metallurgical products.

During the major part of the last decade, the value of U.S. exports to China has been increasing. California, Texas, and Oregon were the three leading U.S. export states to China with 15.4, 10.9 and 7.2 billion U.S. dollars worth of commodities exported respectively in 2019. In terms of merchandise types, the U.S. exported in total over ten billion U.S. dollars worth of civilian aircraft, engines, equipment and parts to China, while semiconductors, soybeans, and passenger cars also accounted for major shares in the exports.

Despite the high U.S. exports to China, China remains the main source of the trade deficit of the United States. In 2019, the total value of U.S. trade in goods with China amounted to almost 559 billion U.S. dollars, composed of a 107 billion U.S. dollar export value and a 452 billion U.S. dollar import value, resulting into a trade deficit of around 345 billion U.S. dollars.

On July 6th, 2018, the Trump administration officially imposed a 25 percent tariff on goods worth 34 billion U.S. dollars from China, marking the official launch of Trump’s tariff policy towards Beijing. While some Chinese experts were expressing their worries on social media about the impact this trade war could have on China’s economy, the U.S. based Brookings Institute published a report in which they claimed that in the high-tech field that Trump wanted to strike, the "added value" from China among these products was very low.

Another two rounds of the U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods followed in 2018, resulting in China’s retaliation, trade talks, and temporary truce agreed to on December 2nd. Many more trade negotiations were arranged in both Beijing and Washington in the beginning of 2019 resulting, however, in another tariff increases in May, June, and September.

As of mid-2020, the U.S. had applied tariffs to a total of 550 billion U.S. dollars of Chinese imports, whereas China had levied tariffs on 185 billion U.S. dollars worth of American products. A fragile truce was reached between the two countries in 2020. However, the clash of their different economic models, increasing geopolitical rivalry, and mistrust will likely keep the Sino-U.S. trading relations unstable for the years to come.

Interesting statistics

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Sino-U.S. trading relationship

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China’s imports from the United States

United States imports from China


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