Focus on China Import, 2nd largest importer in the world

14 October 2020 | China | General

For the past 10 years, China has always been the second-largest importer in the world behind the USA. Even during recent years, under the pressure of the trade war with the USA, highly uncertain economic prospects, and the impact of the pandemic, the Chinese import market still makes admirable progress. More and more countries start and develop their trade partnerships with China and develop both Import and export business via multiple ways of transportation as air freight, sea freight, rail, and more! On the eve of the CIIE, Bansard International reviews the key elements of imports into China.

Focus on China Import, 2nd largest importer in the world

Long-term Unstoppable Growth

China, the world’s largest economic entity, is of the broad market and numerous business opportunities. This advantage, which is unique to only a few countries, is attracting the attention of many foreign players to meet the growing local demand for high-quality foreign products. However, if we go back to 1950, the total import volume of China was about  583 million dollars per year, an index that was multiplied by almost 19 times in 1978, 28 years after. A major milestone it’s when China joined WTO in 2001, the total import volume grows even faster until 2009, where China became the world’s second-largest import country and has kept its leading position since. In 2018, the total import is about 2,108.9 billion dollars, which is almost 3,632 times more than in 1950, a record! (China's import development report in 2019).


Notable Trends in Recent Years  

From 2018, despite the situation for China due to the trade war with the USA, China has succeeded to maintain its import volume at a historically high level, even increases its volume by 17.82% in 2018. (Report on China's import and export situation in 2019). When we take a deep look at this data, we can notice three interesting facts that deserve to be raised to explain this increase.

1. BRI Countries, A Growing Force

According to the data in 2019, the top 5 sources of import countries are South Korea, Japan, the US, Australia, and Germany (General Administration of Customs of China). However, when we look beyond single countries, we can see countries along the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are playing a significant role, as the new silk railroad between China & Europe (for more information, click our article). By the first quarter of 2020, ASEAN countries, countries within BRI, have surpassed the EU and become China’s largest trading partner, two regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative. (The State Council Information Office). More importantly, by 2018, China’s import from BRI countries is 861 billion dollars, which is more than 40% of China’s total import volume in 2018. (Report on China's import and export situation in 2019) With the continuous implementation of BRI and the development of infrastructures, it is reasonable to predict that BRI countries will become more and more important in China’s import network. 


Bansard International has a strong international network. We have more than 60 offices all around the world. We have the ability to provide high-quality import services for BRI countries and all countries around the world. Also, in addition to the sea and air freight, Bansard International Group, an expert in the rail freight, expend its service among BRI to provide this new alternative from China to Europe. (for more information, you can check our rail solutions)    


2. Rich and More Diversified Products Imported

Another Notable trend in China import is the diversify of products. Although commodities, including oil, gas, and soybeans, are still the main flow of import products, other products, such as food, consumer goods, and cars are growing year by year. The food import origins have increased to 185 countries and the sales of the import food market value have exceeded one trillion CNY. For imported consumer goods including cosmetics, the volume has experienced a huge increase, which is almost 40% from 2018 to 2019. And the import volume of imported automobile products also experienced a high increase compared with 2018, which is 20% ( 


Bansard international provides solutions for all kinds of products, including automotive, electronics & technology, fashion, health & cosmetics products, and all the other production industries. Click here to explore all solutions we provided. 


3. Advanced System and Simplify Procedures

Behind the large import volume, Chinese customs are making effort on reducing customs clearance time. By simplifying procedures, 92 out of 116 certificates have been canceled. Also, the number of regulatory certificates examined at ports was reduced from 86 to 44, and most of them can be applied and checked online. As a result, in 2019, the average import clearance time has been reduced to 41.4 hours, which 42.3% less than the number in 2018. (The State Council Information Office)

Bansard International can help our clients to make this process even more smooth.  Our teams provide services to accompany you in your administrative procedures by offering you optimized customs solutions. Knowledge of these wide-ranging regulations is paramount; our experts are qualified and experienced to be able to assist you throughout the process. (Visit our Customs and Fiscal Solutions for more information)


Distribution of Transportation Mode

The diversified transportation market also devotes to import prosperity. Sea freight import, as the most used way of exporting commodities to China, still keeps its leading position in the market in terms of the past years.  Airfreight and rail freight, which are good alternatives to sea freight, also have their unique advantages, which make them increasingly appreciated by Chinese importers based on their cost and lead time ratio. Finding the best transportation solution, it’s a key decision for every importer, having a direct impact on the product cost and time-to-market to China market, and therefore their competitiveness

> Sea Freight transportation is still the most often used transportation mode. According to the Clarksons Research, the seaborne import volume of China has increased since 2000 and jumped to a record at quarter two 2020, which is 722 million tons and with a 14% increase year on year. Although the volume might be influenced by random accidents, mostly weather-related, which makes the volume experiencing a short-term decrease, the overall trends of the seaborne import market are positive and continuous growth can be anticipated.

Sea Freight China import - Clarkson Research









> Air Freight is a good solution for importers who want to transport their cargos fast and on-time. In 2019, the civil aviation industry completed 7.53 million tons of cargo and mail transportation, both import-export, with a year-on-year increase of 2.0%. For international transportation, the volume maintains almost the same high level as in 2018, which is 2.42 million tons. (



> Rail Freight, as a good alternative solution between sea and air freight, also experiences a positive increase. By the end of February this year, the total import and export volume of rail freight increases 8.1%, which is 8.67 million tons. CN express, the route between Asia and Europe, has increased its volume by 1.5%, which is 83,000 TEUs in 2019. (

Bansard rail freight China Europe map


Bansard International, as the expert on freight transportation, can facilitate across any mode. Our import services can transport all goods regardless of source or destination. With our strong partner network and our own offices, we can offer a wide range of multimodal transport solutions. (Our Solution Page)


China Import After COVID-19

At the beginning of 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak has greatly challenged and struck the transportation industry and import market. Government regulations have restricted the capability of China’s import market. In the first quarter of 2020, the import volume is 3.24 trillion CNY, which decreased by 0.7% compared with last year. Meanwhile, the export volume dropped by 11.4% compared with quarter one last year. (The State Council Information Office) The overall transportation market was definitely impacted by the outbreak

However, according to the half-year report, the import market quickly returns to a normal situation. Start in April 2020, the total import and export volume has increased for 3 months. In June 2020, the import market has been on the right track and achieved a 4.3% increase. For now, the COVID-19 has been controlled in China and almost all companies are restarting their businesses, with such a positive market signal and policy support, China’s import business will have strong anti-risk abilities



CIIE and Bansard International

This year from Nov. 5th to 10th, the third session of the China International Import Expo (CIIE) will be held in Shanghai. As one of the most important fairs in a year, CIIE will attract thousands of exhibitors and almost a million visitors to attend. Numerous businesses will be negotiated and done during that time. Especially this year, when the world is experiencing a hard time fighting with COVID-19 and its side effect, CIIE is a strong signal that shows China’s import market is officially back to normal and will continue to grow just like it did in the past years.

Bansard China - Providing Door-to-door Solutions to china


Bansard International Group, present in China since 2004, witnessing and participating in the development of imports in China, operates and develops import solutions in China for all companies that need it. This year, Bansard International is one of the official exhibitors of the China International Import Expo (CIIE), we invite you to visit our booth at the fair! Our booth is located in the Trade in Services area and has the number 8.2C7 - 01. We have planned a surprise for all visitors who will come to our booth! Feel free to contact our team any time at

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