We increasingly live in a service economy, and the exponential advancements in technology over the last 30 years will keep the global manufacturing marketplace in flux.
Despite the dread that can inspire for older workers, traditional manufacturing remains a vital part of the business world, with China as its bedrock.
America’s newly-instituted tariffs are an attempt to stymie China’s dominance in the manufacturing marketplace, as they try to woo businesses back with reduced corporate taxes and exclusionary penalties on the world’s largest exporter. Despite this change, there’s no getting around how desirable China still is as a manufacturing hub.
There’s a reason people are leery of the tariffs imposed on Chinese goods; They make up a huge slice of the manufacturing economy and the ripple effects are invaluable. How big and important are they?
Here are the top 10 products manufactured in China:
1) Personal Computers
The ease of accessing information is due to the near ubiquity of personal computing power in first world countries. China accounts for the vast majority of those personal computers (PC). In 2013, Chinese-based Lenovo surpassed Hewlett Packard in OC sales market share.
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2) Mobile Phones
We’re all mobile now, but China is on another level because they’re actually making them. Since 2010, they’ve seen a 105 percent increase in phone service devices — which includes smartphones — according to analysis by WorldsTopExports.com.
They also concluded that the People’s Republic of China sold $219.4 billion worth of mobile phones in 2017, 9 percent higher than 2016.
While computer exports from China have taken a slight dip in the last five years, smartphones are up. Turning computing power into a more compact accessory pays serious dividends when you’re the cheapest, most efficient manufacturer.
3) Solar Cells
Going green isn’t just liberal boondoggle in the culture wars, it’s also big business. Energy equals output, after all.
According to industry data, China overtook Germany for the most solar capacity in 2015, and they’re the leading world market for both photovoltaics and solar thermal energy, after more than doubling their solar capacity in 2016. In 2017, China shipped $26.8 billion in solar powered diodes and semiconductors, up 0.6 percent from the previous year.
They’re the largest investors in solar energy, largely because they use so much of it, and their dominance manufacturing solar cells will only continue. From 2008 to 2013, their manufactured solar electric panel industry dropped world prices by 80 percent.
4) Air Conditioners
Stay frosty might be a military maxim, but in the literal sense it more aptly describes China’s HVAC manufacturing. By way of a sina.com report from 2015, China makes 109 billion air conditioners annually, which is around 80 percent of the world’s total.
In 2017, they exported $14.7 billion worth of air conditioners, 33.7 percent of all air conditioners exported that year according to WorldsTopExports.com.
There’s a reason Nike, Adidas and other top sneaker companies open plants in China and perform the majority of their manufacturing there. They shipped $21.6 billion worth of rubber and plastic footwear in 2017, up 0.8 percent from the year before.
They even exported over $1 billion more (9.1 vs. 7.7) over second place Italy in leather shoes, a leader in the high-end bespoke market.
When you build, you need cement. Almost all construction depends on it, which is what makes China so integral for any sort of structural development.
For years they’ve been at the forefront of cement manufacturing. The vast majority is sold as Portland cement, which is used for concrete, mortar, grout and stucco — like amino acids are for the human body, Portland cement is to industrial expansion.
Regardless of how it’s delivered, China — $580 million in 2017, or 6.6 percent of the overall market –– continues to be the world leader in cement manufacturing. But the gap between no. 2 Thailand — $530 million — isn’t as wide as some other manufactured products on this list, and global cement shipments are way down from the $13 billion high in 2013 to $8.8 billion in 2017.
7) Energy-Saving Lamps
Similar to cement, and China’s drive towards renewable energy with solar cells, energy-efficient light is close to a primordial necessity in the modern world.
From 2010-2017, lamps, lighting and illuminated signs delivered the highest surplus growth for China, up 218.9 percent according to analysis by WorldsTopExports.com. That helps explain why in 2014, China accounted for over 80 percent of the energy-saving lamp market.
During the global financial crisis that started in 2008, China overtook South Korea in total tonnage of manufactured ships despite the fact South Korea’s big 3 builders — Hyundai Heavy, Samsung Heavy and Daewoo Shipbuilding — own a firm grasp on large-container exports.
Rather than fight that losing battle, China swooped in to dominate by manufacturing small- and medium-sized ships. It’s led them to snatch over 34 percent of the market share (versus 22 percent for South Korea) in the first half of 2017.
Similar to a pair of your favorite kicks, if you see a small container ship, it’s more than likely made in China.
The cost of production is rising in China, but they’re still a near monolith in clothing manufacturing. They rank No. 1 by a landslide in global textile exports, accounting for nearly 30 percent of the market, by way of Textile Infomedia.
They export $161 billion worth of clothing a year, according to the World Trade Organization (WTO), but their firm grasp on the marketplace has loosened in recent years with fewer skilled laborers and the shift to higher-end products that require updated technology to produce.
Still, no one matches China’s infrastructure, so few countries have been able to take advantage of China’s slight slip.
It was way back in 2011, but the comments Miuccia Prada — the co-CEO of the eponymous, Milan-based fashion behemoth, Prada — said of Chinese manufacturing to the Wall Street Journal still hold true:
“Sooner or later, it will happen to everyone.”
As has been the case for a lot of the products on this list, China has been the world’s top producer of coal for the last three decades.
According to a statistical review of world energy performed by British Petroleum (BP), while China’s coal exports have dwindled in recent years along with the overall market (from nearly 8.1 billion tonnes in 2014 to 7.4 in 2016), they’re still more than double the nearest competitor — India, who has actually been increasing exports as the marketplace has fallen.
But it’s still a stark difference, highlighting China’s preeminence in manufacturing: 3.4 billion tons for China vs. 694 million for India.
Manufacturing Is Still Centered In China
Despite some issues updating its labor force and utilizing more advanced technology to more efficiently create better products, China is still a great place to do your company’s manufacturing. Sourcify lists three such reasons why: Better service, duplication capabilities, and higher output, all of which have helped produce the products on this list.