China overtakes U.S. as worlds largest IT products exporter

Published 16 December 2005

China’s steady economic growth is beginning to tell, and the challenge to U.S. ITC supremacy should be especially worrisome

The French may insist that plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose, but they have been wrong before. Some secular changes inexorably transform the landscape, and things are never the same again. Examples: The Berlin Wall fell; the Soviet Union collapsed; the Red Sox won the World Series. Now we are told that China, in 2004, has overtaken the United States to become the world’s leading exporter of information and communications technology (ICT) goods such as mobile phones, laptop computers, and digital cameras. The information was provided by the OECD. China exported $180 billion worth of ICT goods in 2004, compared with U.S. exports in the same category valued at $149 billion. In 2003 the United States led with exports of ICT goods worth $137 billion, followed by China with $123 billion.

China’s share of total world trade in ICT goods, including both imports and exports, rose to $329 billion in 2004, up from $234 billion in 2003,and $35 billion in 1996. The U.S. share of total world trade stood at $375 billion in 2004, $301 billion in 2003, and $230 billion in 1996. The data reveals a shift toward more trade between China and other Asian countries, with a parallel decline in ICT imports to the Asian region from the European Union and the United States. China used to rely on EU- or U.S.-made electronic components such as computer chips for its manufacturing of laptops and mobile phones. These components are now increasingly being sourced from other Asian countries, including Japan (18 percent of China’s ICT imports), Taiwan (16 percent), Korea (13 percent), and Malaysia (8 percent). China itself is also manufacturing and exporting more electronic components than before, with these components now forming China’s second largest export item after computer and related equipment.