How China Overtook the U.S. As the World’s Trade Partner
In 2018, trade accounted for 59% of global GDP, up nearly 1.5 times since 1980.
Over this timeframe, international trade has transformed significantly—not just in terms of volume and composition, but also in terms of the countries that the rest of the world leans on for their most important trade relationships.
Now, a critical shift is occurring in the landscape, and it may surprise you to learn that China has already usurped the U.S. as the world’s most dominant trading partner.
Trading Places: A Global Shift
Today’s animation comes from the Lowy Institute, and it pulls data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) database on bilateral trade flows, to determine whether the U.S. or China is a bigger trading partner for each country from 1980 to 2018.
The results are stark: before 2000, the U.S. was at the helm of global trade, as over 80% of countries traded with the U.S. more than they did with China. By 2018, that number had dropped sharply to just 30%, as China swiftly took top position in 128 of 190 countries.
The researchers pinpoint China’s 2001 entry into the World Trade Organization as a major turning point in China’s international trade relationships. The dramatic shift that followed is clearly demonstrated in the visualization above—between 2005 and 2010, a number of countries tipped towards Chinese influence, especially in Africa and Asia.
Over time, China’s dominance has grown dramatically. It’s no wonder then, that China and the U.S. have a contentious trade relationship themselves, as both nations battle it out for first place.
A Tale of Two Economies
The United States and China are competitors in many ways, but to be successful they must rely on each other for mutually beneficial trade. However, it’s also the major issue on which they are struggling to reach a common ground.
The U.S. has been vocal about negotiating more balanced trade agreements with China. In fact, a mid-2018 poll shows that 62% of Americans consider their trade relationship with China to be unfair.
Since 2018, both parties have faced a fraught relationship, imposing major tariffs on consumer and industrial goods—and retaliations are reaching greater and greater heights:
While a delicate truce has been reached at the moment, the trade war has caused a significant drag on global growth, and the World Bank estimates it will continue to have an effect into 2021.
At the same time, China’s sphere of influence continues to grow.
One Belt, One Road, One Trade Direction?
China seems to have a finger in every pie. The nation is financing a flurry of megaprojects across Asia and Africa—but one broader initiative stands above the rest.
China’s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) Initiative, planned for a 2049 completion, is advancing at a furious pace. In 2019 alone, Chinese companies signed contracts worth up to $128 billion to start Chinese large-scale infrastructure projects in various countries.
While building new highways and ports abroad is beneficial for Chinese financiers, OBOR is also about creating new markets and trade routes for Chinese goods in Asia. Recent research found that the OBOR program’s infrastructure expansion and logistics performance improvements led to positive effects on China’s exports.
Nevertheless, it’s clear the new infrastructure network is already transforming global trade, possibly cementing China’s position as the world’s major trading partner for years to come.
Charting the Rise and Fall of the Global Luxury Goods Market
This infographic charts the rise and fall of the $308 billion global personal luxury market, and explores what the coming year holds for its growth
The Rise and Fall of the Global Luxury Goods Market
Global demand for personal luxury goods has been steadily increasing for decades, resulting in an industry worth $308 billion in 2019.
However, the insatiable desire for consumers to own nice things was suddenly interrupted by the coming of COVID-19, and experts are predicting a brutal contraction of up to one-third of the current luxury good market size this year.
Will the industry bounce back? Or will it return as something noticeably different?
A Once Promising Trajectory
The global luxury goods market—which includes beauty, apparel, and accessories—has compounded at a 6% pace since the 1990s.
Recent years of growth in the personal luxury goods market can be mostly attributed to Chinese consumers. This geographic market accounted for 90% of total sales growth in 2019, followed by the Europe and the Americas.
Analysts suggest that China’s younger luxury goods consumers in particular have significant spending power, with an average spend of $6,000 (¥41,000) per person in pre-COVID times.
An Industry Now in Distress
The lethal combination of reduced foot traffic and decreased consumer spending in the first quarter of 2020 has brought the retail industry to its knees.
In fact, more than 80% of fashion and luxury players will experience financial distress as a result of extended store closures.
With iconic luxury retailers such as Neiman Marcus filing for bankruptcy, the pressure on the luxury industry is clear. It should be noted however, that companies who were experiencing distress before the COVID-19 outbreak will be the hardest hit.
Predicting the Collapse
In a recent report, Bain & Company estimated a 25% to 30% global luxury market contraction for the first quarter of 2020 based on several economic variables. They have also modeled three scenarios to predict the performance for the remainder of 2020.
- Optimistic scenario: A limited market contraction of 15% to 18%, assuming increased consumer demand for the second and third quarter of the year, roughly equating to a sales decline of $46 billion to $56 billion.
- Intermediate scenario: A moderate market contraction of between 22% and 25%, or $68 to $77 billion.
- Worst-case scenario: A steep contraction of between 30% and 35%, equating to $92 billion to $108 billion. This assumes a longer period of sales decline.
Although there are signs of recovery in China, the industry is not expected to fully return to 2019 levels until 2022 at the earliest. By that stage, the industry could have transformed entirely.
Changing Consumer Mindsets
Since the beginning of the pandemic, one-quarter of of consumers have delayed purchasing luxury items. In fact, a portion of those who have delayed purchasing luxury goods are now considering entirely new avenues, such as seeking out cheaper alternatives.
However, most people surveyed claim that they will postpone buying luxury items until they can get a better deal on price.
This frugal mindset could spark an interesting behavioral shift, and set the stage for a new category to emerge from the ashes—the second-hand luxury market.
Numerous sources claim that pre-owned luxury could in fact overtake the traditional luxury market, and the pandemic economy could very well be a tipping point.
The Future of Luxury
Medium-term market growth could be driven by a number of factors, from a global growing middle class and their demand for luxury products, as well as retailers’ sudden shift to e-commerce.
While analysts can only rely on predictions to determine the future of personal luxury, it is clear that the industry is at a crossroads.
The New Energy Era: The Impact of Critical Minerals on National Security
The U.S. finds itself in a precarious position, depending largely on China and other foreign nations for the critical minerals needed in the new energy era.
In 1954, the United States was only fully reliant on foreign sources for eight mineral commodities.
Fast forward 60+ years, and the country now depends on foreign sources for 20 such materials, including ones essential for military and battery technologies.
This puts the U.S. in a precarious position, depending largely on China and other foreign nations for the crucial materials such as lithium, cobalt, and rare earth metals that can help build and secure a more sustainable future.
America’s Energy Dependence
Today’s visualization comes from Standard Lithium, and it outlines China’s dominance of the critical minerals needed for the new energy era.
Which imported minerals create the most risk for U.S. supply chains and national security?
Natural Resources and Development
Gaining access to natural resources can influence a nation’s ability to grow and defend itself. China’s growth strategy took this into account, and the country sourced massive amounts of raw materials to position the country as the number one producer and consumer of commodities.
By the end of the second Sino-Japanese War in 1945, China’s mining industry was largely in ruins. After the war, vast amounts of raw materials were required to rebuild the country.
In the late 1970s, the industry was boosted by China’s “reform and opening” policies, and since then, China’s mining outputs have increased enormously. China’s mining and material industries fueled the rapid growth of China from the 1980s onwards.
Supply Chain Dominance
A large number of Chinese mining companies also invest in overseas mining projects. China’s “going out” strategy encourages companies to move into overseas markets.
They have several reasons to mine beyond its shores: to secure mineral resources that are scarce in China, to gain access to global markets and mineral supply chains, and to minimize domestic overproduction of some mineral commodities.
This has led to China to become the leading producer of many of the world’s most important metals while also securing a commanding position in key supply chains.
As an example of this, China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of rare earth materials. The country produces approximately 94% of the rare earth oxides and around 100% of the rare earth metals consumed globally, with 50% going to domestic consumption.
U.S.-China Trade Tensions
The U.S. drafted a list of 35 critical minerals in 2018 that are vital to national security, and according to the USGS, the country sources at least 31 of the materials chiefly through imports.
China is the third largest supplier of natural resources to the U.S. behind Canada and Mexico.
|Rank||Country||U.S. Minerals Imports By Country ($US, 2018)|
This dependence on China poses a risk. In 2010, a territorial dispute between China and Japan threatened to disrupt the supply of the rare earth elements. Today, a similar threat still looms over trade tensions between the U.S. and China.
China’s scale of influence over critical minerals means that it could artificially limit supply and move prices in the global clean energy trade, in the same way that OPEC does with oil. This would leave nations that import their mineral needs in an expensive and potentially limiting spot.
Moon Shot: Building Domestic Supply and Production
Every supply chain starts with raw materials. The U.S. had the world’s largest lithium industry until the 1990s—but this is no longer the case, even though the resources are still there.
The U.S. holds 12% of the world’s identified lithium resources, but only produces 2% of global production from a single mine in Nevada.
There are a handful of companies looking to develop the U.S. lithium reserves, but there is potential for so much more. Less than 18% of the U.S. land mass is geologically mapped at a scale suited to identifying new mineral deposits.
The United States has the resources, it is just a question of motivation. Developing domestic resources can reduce its foreign dependence, and enable it to secure the new energy era.
In the clean energy economy of the future, critical minerals will be just as essential—and geopolitical—as oil is today.
Advertising2 months ago
How COVID-19 Has Impacted Media Consumption, by Generation
COVID-192 months ago
The Pandemic Economy: What are Shoppers Buying Online During COVID-19?
COVID-192 months ago
Every Vaccine and Treatment in Development for COVID-19, So Far
COVID-191 month ago
The Front Line: Visualizing the Occupations with the Highest COVID-19 Risk
COVID-192 months ago
Visualizing What COVID-19 Does to Your Body
COVID-191 month ago
How COVID-19 Consumer Spending is Impacting Industries
Central Banks2 months ago
The Anatomy of the $2 Trillion COVID-19 Stimulus Bill
Money2 months ago
Mapped: The Wealthiest Person in Every U.S. State in 2020