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China Likely to Overtake US as Largest Importer Within 5 Years

Dec. 4, 2017
China will likely start importing more consumer-related products than industrial materials as it becomes the largest consumer market in the world.

From iron ore to baby formula, electronic parts to durian that smells like gym socks, China is buying everything you can think of, and that should make the world’s biggest exporter the top importer in the next few years.

China already takes more imports that the U.S. does from Asia, Africa, Oceania, South America and Eastern Europe, and it will likely snatch the No.1 importer crown from the U.S. within five years if the recovery seen in 2017 continues, CICC economists Liu Liu and Liang Hong wrote in a research note published on Monday.

Its transition from a factory for turning raw materials into exports more toward a consumer society will increase its economic power even further. China will likely start importing more consumer-related products than industrial materials, as it becomes the largest consumer market in the world, the economists at one of the country’s biggest investment banks wrote.

As the largest manufacturer, China has topped the ranks of imports in raw materials, parts and accessories for years. But in terms of consumer goods, it still largely lags behind the U.S.

As Chinese consumers grow more affluent they are showing an increasing appetite for exotic products and import growth will become increasingly consumer driven, according to CICC. 

“This is clearly good news for the global economy as it has struggled with insufficient demand since the global financial crisis,” Liu and Liang wrote. “We believe that the rise of Chinese consumers, with its significant positive spillover effect on the rest of the world, will be the most important and exciting story in the coming years.”

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