What does China buy from us and our neighbours?

15/03/2017 15:00
© Hollandse Hoogte
China’s economic performance has been driving the world economy, especially since the outbreak of the global credit crisis. In spite of some economic slowdown in China over the past few years, the country’s economic ties with the Netherlands have only been strengthened further; Dutch imports from China are continually rising while China’s imports from the Netherlands and neighbouring countries are also seeing a steady increase. What is the significance of China’s imports for the Dutch national economy?

Chinese economic developments

About a decade ago, China’s economic growth started to accelerate rapidly to a pace which has largely been kept up ever since. Until 2015, imports and exports as well as GDP showed a similar upward trend.
China Economic Indicators

This growth did show signs of slowing in 2008, as becomes evident when looking at the development of imports, exports and GDP year on year. China was on double-digit growth for the last time in 2010. Imports and exports saw a minor contraction in 2015 in spite of a continually rising economy.
China Economic Indicators

In 2008, annual growth in exports visibly increased more sharply than in imports. Although the gap has narrowed in recent years, imports still have not caught up. Measured by imports of services, there seems to be a shift in the nature of China’s imports.
Total imports by China

Part of China’s imports is used in manufacturing production, for instance raw materials and mineral fuels. Because the bulk of China’s manufacturing output is destined for foreign markets, imports of these intermediate goods tend to keep pace with Chinese exports.
China total goods imports, by type of goods

EU exports to China

China imports goods and services from the EU to a value exceeding 200 billion euros. Of that amount, 45 percent is on account of Germany; the Netherlands’ share is 5 percent.
Exports goods and services to China

Machinery and transport equipment form the most important group of EU export products to China. Some of these products are used in China’s manufacturing industry but the group also includes passenger cars.
EU export of goods to China

Evidently, the EU is only one among many players on China’s import market. Not much more than 16 percent of China’s imports comes from the EU. The EU’s share is no larger than 20 percent in any group of goods. The highest percentage share of EU goods is found in machinery and transport equipment, which is also the largest commodity group among EU export products for the Chinese market.
Share EU goods in Chinese imports, by type of goods

German exports to China

The bulk of Chinese imports of machinery and transport equipment from the EU is of German origin. Out of the 90 billion euros in related goods imported by China, Germany accounts for 50 billion euros. In addition, Germany is a major player among EU members in the field of chemical products and various manufactured goods.
German goods exports to China, by type of goods

Taking a closer look at German exports of machinery and transport equipment, road transport vehicles such as cars and trucks stand out as the largest commodity group with a total value approaching 20 billion euros. Other major German export products are electrical equipment and various types of manufactured goods which are used by Chinese manufacturers.
Exports German machinery and transport equipment to China, by type of goods

One-sixth of German goods exports to China are manufactured products including instruments (for professional use), metal and rubber products and yarns.
Exports German manufactures to China, by type

Dutch exports to China

As for the Netherlands, exports of goods and services to China amounted to 12.1 billion euros in 2016 (for services, the figure is an estimate based on 2015), up from 5.2 billion in 2008.
Exports from the Netherlands to China

In Dutch exports as well, the largest group of products sold to China consists of machinery and transport equipment; these take up nearly one-third of goods exports to China. Other major export products for the Chinese market are mineral fuels and raw materials, presumably for manufacturing purposes.
Dutch goods exports to China

In addition, the Netherlands accounts for over 10 percent of all EU exports to China of materials, food, beverages and tobacco products.
Share Dutch goods in EU exports to China, by type of goods

Although the Netherlands’ exports of transport equipment to China play a minor role when compared to the rest of the EU, this category is important to the Dutch economy. Unlike in German exports, which are dominated by road vehicles, the share of specialised machinery and electrical equipment form is larger in Dutch exports.
Exports Dutch machinery and transport equipment to China, 2015

In 2015, China ranked ninth on the list of largest export markets for the Netherlands in terms of goods exports. The top position was held by Germany, with other EU countries following at a distance. The volume of exports to China is one-tenth of exports to Germany.
Main export countries Netherlands, 2015

As Dutch manufacturers import goods and services towards the production of export goods, the export value is not equivalent to the value added to the Dutch economy. The value added to the economy by re-exports is only a fraction. Dutch products also include a large foreign component; out of the 9.3 billion euros in goods and services which were exported to China in 2014 (later adjusted to 9.8 billion), a value of 4.4 billion euros was added to the Dutch economy, equivalent to 0.7 percent of GDP.

Vice-versa, the Netherlands supplies ‘components’ (which may refer to services) for the manufacturing of products in other countries which are then exported to China. For instance, the Netherlands supplies spare parts to the German car manufacturing industry. Likewise, part of the export sales to China eventually end up in another part of the world as Chinese manufacturers incorporate such goods and services into their export products. Dutch products ending up with Chinese final consumers – whether or not as a component – contributed 4 billion euros to our economy. This is an alternative way of looking at a country’s exports.
Value exports to China, 2014

Chinese companies in the Netherlands

Economic relations between the Netherlands and China are not limited to trade. A rising number of Chinese companies are active in the Netherlands, for example, of which the parent company is located in China. Chinese companies accounted for a total turnover in 2014 of 8.7 billion euros. There are separate records on the number of Hong Kong companies; this number is hardly increasing, as opposed to the number of mainland companies.
Foreign companies in the Netherlands