China set to become world’s top importer

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2019/11/3 21:48:39

Photo: IC

The China International Import Expo (CIIE), which opens on Tuesday, comes at a critical moment as the US-China trade war steers public attention toward the US trade deficit with China. A key issue for the Chinese economy is how it can explore the potential of higher imports.

China is now the world's second-largest importer after the US. According to some estimates, China's imports of both goods and services amount to about 10 percent of the global total. Many well-known enterprises see China as an important strategic market that still has great potential for growth.

In the first three quarter of 2019, the per capita consumption of Chinese households stood at 15,464 yuan ($2,185), up 8.3 percent from a year earlier. Since China has more than 1.3 billion people, even the tiniest figure, when multiplied by 1.3 billion, ends up being a very big number. In the January-September period, China's retail sales reached 29.7 trillion yuan. China has for several years sought to move away from its investment-led model toward one driven by consumption. Now the transition is taking place.

US consumer spending gained only 0.2 percent in September. Thanks to the enormous purchasing power of the growing middle class, China is projected to surpass the US sooner or later as the world's largest consumer market. An optimistic estimate by New York-based research company eMarketer showed that this could be the year.

If China overtakes the US as the world's largest consumption market this year, China would not be far from being the world's largest importer. 

The US is trying to restrain the rise of China's manufacturing sector by imposing or raising tariffs on imports from China, but these attempts will be in vain. Anyone who thinks that globalization can be reversed will have to revisit the stories describing US families who are trying to live an entire year without buying anything produced in China. 

China's status in the global industrial chain cannot be easily undermined. As a manufacturing superpower and an integral part of the world industry chain, China is likely to increase its share of industrial raw material imports in the global markets.

Household consumption and the development of China's manufacturing sector can be two powerful engines for China's import growth. If everything goes well, China is likely to overtake the US to become the world's largest importer in the near future.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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