New Internationalist

On the world’s factory floor

Issue 423

Facts and figures about China’s growth and what it costs.

It’s hard to imagine that before 1979 – the year that China opened its economy to world trade – buying goods ‘Made in China’ was rare. Since then its exports have increased by more than 10,000 per cent.2 Averaging nearly 10 per cent yearly growth over the last decade,1,2 China is leading the capitalist pack. And this year is no exception. As the global economy declines, commentators say that China’s economy will defy the trend and grow between 5.5 and 8 per cent.3 But with growth come costs. Here are just a few…

Click the image to enlarge it (this is how the page appeared in the magazine), or read on for the figures below.

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China could consume more than half the world’s key resources within a decade.4 China is presently consuming more than:

  • 1/2 of the world’s seaborne iron ore5
  • 1/3 of the world’s aluminium5
  • 1/2 of the world’s copper5

In 2007, China gobbled up

  • nearly half of the world’s hard coal production6
  • nearly 1/10 of the world’s oil production7

Global consumption Made in China

  • 104 million China’s manufacturing workforce8
  • 5.4 million Estimated loss of jobs in China for every 1% downturn in its economy3
  • 1/10 The average wage in China compared to Europe and the US9
  • 10 cents The average amount Chinese manufacturers receive for their designer clothes from every $1 sale in the US8
  • 18 hours The length to which working days can extend in the busiest manufacturing months8
  • ‘F’ The grade given by the Ministry of Health to China’s oversight of occupational disease8

Manufacturing goods account for 90 per cent of China’s exports.10 China makes:

  • 1/2 of the world’s clothes10
  • 1/2 of the world’s computers10
  • More than 1/2 of the world’s digital electronics10
  • More than 3/4 of the world’s toys10

Roughly 30% goes to the US, 26% goes to Japan and 16% goes to the European Union.11

Jobs and profit from manufacturing relocate to China from these countries as a result.

  1. The US-China Business Council, China’s Economic Statistics, 2009.
  2. From 1979 to 2008, exports increased from $14 billion to $1,429 billion. Wayne M Morrison, China’s Economic Conditions, Congressional Research Service, Washington, March 2009.
  3. World Bank, China Quarterly Update & Global Economic Prospects, March 2009.
  4. The Times (London), ‘China’s Growth could Spark Political Tension’, 28 January 2008 quoting Vivek Tulpule, mining giant Rio Tinto’s chief economist.
  5. Press release, Rio Tinto announces pioneering strategic partnership with Chinalco,  12 February 2009.
  6. 46% - World Coal Institute.
  7. 9.3% – BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2008.
  8. Alexandra Harney, The China Price – The true cost of Chinese competitive advantage, Penguin Press, New York, 2008.
  9. Will Hutton, The writing on the wall – China and the West in the 21st Century, Abacus, London, 2007.
  10. Martin James, ‘The New Silk Road’ on the online service of The World Magazine (United Arab Emirates) –
  11. Shaun Breslin, China and the Global Political Economy, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2007.

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This article was originally published in issue 423

New Internationalist Magazine issue 423
Issue 423

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