he People’s Republic of China – the largest country in East Asia and the most populous in
the world – is also the biggest textile-producing, -consuming and -exporting country globally.
According to the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) most recent Trade Policy Review of China, as of
2006, approximately 20 million people were employed in the country’s textile and apparel industry.
Though the global financial crisis has affected its most important industry sector, China is
weathering the storm: According to a report published by China’s National Bureau of Statistics
(NBS), in July 2009, the textile industry reported year-on-year growth of 8.6 percent.
In April 2008, the China National Textile and Apparel Council, which represents China’s
textile industry, joined the Switzerland-based International Textile Manufacturers Federation
(ITMF) as a member association, and in October 2009 hosted the ITMF Annual Conference in Shanghai.
In an interview with
Textile World Asia
, ITMF Director General Dr. Christian P. Schindler explained why the organization selected
Shanghai as the location for the 2009 ITMF Annual Conference: “Shanghai [is] one of the most
booming cities in the world, with a huge textile cluster in and around the city. As the world’s
biggest producer of textiles with the largest domestic market and one of the fastest-growing
economies in the world, China is and will be of great importance as a production site and
increasingly also as an export market.”
Exports And Imports
China leads the world in exports of both apparel and textiles. According to the WTO’s 2008
International Trade Statistics, the country’s apparel exports in 2007 were valued at US$115.2
billion, representing a 33.4-percent share in world exports. Of those, US$32 billion were exported
to Asia, US$28.4 billion to Europe, US$27.4 billion to North America, US$13.7 billion to the
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and the remainder to the Middle East, Africa, and South
and Central America. Its textile exports in 2007 were valued at US$56 billion, representing a
23.5-percent share in world exports. Of those, US$21.4 billion were exported to Asia, US$10.5
billion to Europe, US$9.9 billion to North America, US$4.8 billion to Africa, and the remainder to
the Middle East, South and Central America and the CIS.
China exports more textiles to the United States than any other country: According to the US
Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, Office of Textiles and Apparel’s Sept.
4, 2009, Major Shippers Report, China accounted for 37.5 percent in terms of dollars and 42.3
percent in square-meter equivalents of total textile and apparel imports into the United States in
the year ended in July 2009.
Because China’s textile industry is so dependent on exports, it has been significantly
impacted by the global economic downturn. The China General Administration of Customs released
statistics indicating the country’s January-June 2009 textile and apparel exports fell 10.9 percent
year-on-year compared to the same period in 2008. Textiles declined 15.2 percent to US$26.9
billion, and apparel dropped 8.5 percent to US$45.9 billion. The administration noted, however,
that the decline in textile exports was smaller than that of overall nationwide exports.
The WTO’s 2008 International Trade Statistics reported China’s apparel imports were valued at
US$2 billion, accounting for a 0.6-percent share in world imports; and its textile imports were
valued at US$16.64 billion, representing a 6.7-percent share in world imports.
The German Engineering Federation (VDMA) Textile Machinery Association reports that Germany’s
textile machinery exports to China have declined drastically: In 2007, machinery exports to China
were worth approximately 1 million euros; in 2008, the number had decreased to approximately 779
thousand euros; and in the first half of 2009, German exports were worth approximately 279 thousand
euros. However, according to VDMA, the Chinese textile industry has recovered gradually from the
all-time lows realized in January and February 2009; and since the second quarter of this year,
indicators show the textile industry is recovering steadily.
The Association of Italian Textile Machinery Manufacturers (ACIMIT) noted in the 7th edition
of “The World’s Textile Machinery Industry: An Overview of Trade Flows and Market Shares 2002-2008”
that though China’s imports of textile machinery declined by 27 percent in 2008 compared to a
9-percent increase in imports in 2007, its exports of textile machinery decreased by only 4 percent
in 2008 over 2007 – a much smaller decline than other textile machinery manufacturing countries
experienced. ACIMIT predicted in the report that China’s textile machinery market may be the first
to rebound. Chinese authorities have taken actions to stimulate the textile and apparel sector,
which, combined with the modest recovery in China’s primary textile export sales markets, may
encourage investment in new machinery and products, according to ACIMIT.
ITMF’s 2008 International Textile Machinery Shipment Statistics report also noted a marked
decline in global textile machinery shipments to China in the past year. Nonetheless, China
remained the biggest investor in almost every textile machinery segment. The country installed 43
percent of spinning machinery shipped globally, with its share of open-end rotors reaching 46
percent. It imported an overwhelming 82 percent of single-heater draw-texturing spindles and 38
percent of double-heater draw-texturing spindles. China also was the largest importer of weaving
machinery, installing 65 percent of shuttleless looms shipped. It also received 68 percent of the
circular knitting machinery shipped and led in electronic flat knitting machine investments,
accounting for 44 percent of the machinery shipped.
Textile Industry Plan
The Chinese government continues to place importance on the textile and apparel sector,
taking measures to ensure it remains profitable. In April 2009, the State Council in Beijing
approved the Adjustment and Revitalization Plan Of Textile Industry, calling on the industry to
stabilize and open up export markets. The plan anticipates textile production will grow steadily
from 2009 to 2011, with above-scale industrial enterprises adding 1.2 trillion renminbi in value,
representing an average annual growth rate of 10 percent. The plan anticipates total textile
exports to total US$240 billion, an 8-percent increase per year on average.
The government emphasized that enterprises need to accelerate replacement of outdated
production capacity, particularly in the cotton and wool spinning sectors. It plans to eliminate
7.5 billion meters of high energy- and water-consuming printing and dyeing operations, and 2.3
million tons of outdated chemical fiber production capacity. Other goals include expanding
employment; optimizing the industrial structure; promoting urbanization; developing more
independent brands; enhancing the independent innovation capacity, technology and equipment,
improving product quality; and supporting mergers and acquisitions in order to expedite the textile
Export Tax Rebate Rates
According to China Research & Intelligence’s (CRI’s) 2009 Research Report of China’s
Textile Industry, in 2008, the Chinese textile industry’s total export value totaled US$64.4
billion – a 16.6-percent increase over 2007 and a 1.5-percent link-relative-ratio decrease.
However, this actually signified a decline in the country’s export-value growth rate. Declining
overseas demand has led to decreased exports, and analysts predict that Chinese apparel exports in
2009 will be 10-percent lower than in 2008. CRI noted in its 2009 Report of Chinese Apparel
Industry that the Chinese textile industry’s export advantages have decreased also because of
rising workforce costs, and raw material and other price inflation. The global financial crisis has
further weakened the industry’s export competitiveness, and the Chinese government has been
increasing export tax rebate rates for textile products to help the industry cope with declining
According to CRI’s 2009 Research Report of China’s Textile Industry, industry supply and
demand data indicate that domestic demand will begin to play a major part in stimulating the
industry’s continuing development. China’s domestic consumption of textiles appears to be rising:
According to the WTO’s Trade Policy Review, in 2006, China consumed 75 percent of the textile and
apparel sector’s output. The NBS reported that retail sales of apparel increased 18.7 percent
year-on-year in October 2008, and first-quarter 2009 apparel sales increased 14.3 percent
year-on-year. China’s response to international trade barriers, increasing environmenal-protection
requirements and climbing labor wages are among factors that will play a major role in determining
the future of its textile and apparel industry. The country’s rapidly developing economy and
increasing demand – along with rising export tax rebates and government policies issued to foster
the textile industry’s growth – should help China ride out the effects of the global economic
downturn and return to an upswing.