China

Key points in this article

  • Structural reform on the horizon for China
  • Major industries like mining and manufacturing

Capital: Beijing

China is the largest and one of the most diverse markets in the world, comprising many regions specialising in varying industries. 

China’s appetite for foreign investment, coupled with its proximity to Australia, presents a great opportunity for Australian businesses.

Economic overview

China’s rate of growth looks set to moderate as the country enters a period of structural reform, particularly in heavy industries.

The ongoing de-leveraging process in Chinese commercial banks suggests that liquidity conditions may not improve much. However, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) will need to address the rigid exchange rate system to restore policy consistency.

See the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) website for a wider overview of China.

For more advice on doing business in China, see the Australian Trade Commission’s (Austrade) site.

Expect growth to slow down in China and structural reforms to take place

Major industries

As the world’s second largest economy, China’s major industries are enormous in all respects.

Property and Construction 

China plans to accelerate construction of urban public facilities. The country will also invest heavily in transportation.

In the energy and utilities sectors, the focus will be on efficiency and low carbon generation – with nuclear and renewable energy featuring strongly in the projects pipeline. The power grid will also be further developed.

In the housing sector, the Government has pledged the construction of more low-cost housing units. While this will drive construction, the plan remains unclear in terms of allocations and implementation between the central and local governments.

There are increasing openings for Australian exporters and investors in the infrastructure sector. Many of these opportunities will be in China’s more underdeveloped western region, which covers ten provinces and 56% of China’s land mass.

Mining

China’s mining industry has experienced rapid development and growth over the past decade, driven by increasing demand from the energy, manufacturing and construction sectors.

Despite a recent easing in economic growth compared with pre-GFC, China remains the world's largest consumer of minerals and the world’s largest producer of coal, steel, cement, aluminium, lead, zinc, tin, magnesium, tungsten, antimony, mercury and rare earth metals.

While China has significant mineral resources with proven reserves, its production of energy resources (coal, oil and gas) and key metals (high-grade iron ore, copper, aluminium, phosphorus, and potassium) isn’t keeping pace with growing demand.

In addition, energy resources and key metal reserves are in many cases low-grade and hard to extract, making mine development costly and the smelting process more energy intensive and polluting.

Mineral resources are often located long distances away from the high demand urban areas in eastern China, resulting in transportation challenges that also contribute to environmental impacts.

In addition to the strong demand for imported minerals, China presents opportunities for:

  • mining equipment
  • advanced technologies
  • services provision.

With the global slowdown of the coal mining industry, non-coal mining is another important market to consider.

There has been significant growth in the non-coal mining industry in China over the last five years. Areas of demand for mining equipment, technology and services (METS) companies include:

  • advanced technologies for upgrading existing mines
  • building new digital mines.

Manufacturing 

As the world’s second largest economy, much of China’s growth has been based on its cheap labour and production as the ‘factory of the world’.

China is the world’s second largest retail market after the United States. The Ministry of Commerce People’s Republic of China (MOFCOM) identified four emerging trends in the Chinese retail and wholesale industries:

  1. Online retail is rapidly growing.
  2. Distribution channels have expanded massively into third and fourth-tier cities due to market saturation in first and second-tier cities.
  3. Competition between department stores and supermarkets is intensifying, but the performance of specialty stores is staying steady.
  4. Many retail enterprises have reformed their business models by creating their own brands, enhancing cooperation with suppliers, and enforcing fine management.

Agriculture 

It’s forecast that China will improve its food security and remain self-sufficient in its main food crops, while increasing trade in selected commodities.

China’s consumption growth should slightly outpace its production growth – and as a result, a further but modest opening of China’s agricultural sector is anticipated.

Mining and manufacturing remain large industry sectors in the Chinese economy

Emerging industries

As part of its 12th five-year plan, China is looking to build capacity and increase its global competitiveness by prioritising seven emerging industries.

By the standard of advanced economies, China remains a low cost economy. However, this cost advantage has begun to stretch after the rapid economic progression of the last decade.

Australia’s relationship with China

Trade

China is Australia’s largest two-way trading partner – it’s our largest export destination and our largest source of imports.

Major Australian exports to China

Iron ore and concentrates, coal, gold, and crude petroleum.

For more information on specific importing and exporting industries in China, see Austrade’s market profile of China.

China’s primary exports and imports

China’s major global exports include electrical and other machinery, puzzles, models and toys, apparel, furniture and parts.

China’s primary global imports are electrical and other machinery, oil and mineral fuels, aircraft, and metal ores.

See DFAT’s China country and economy fact sheet for more detail on the country.

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