Geographies in Depth

This is what the US imports from China

A worker examines a circuit board inside a Foxconn factory in the township of Longhua in the southern Guangdong province May 26, 2010. A spate of nine employee deaths at global contract electronics manufacturer Foxconn, Apple's main supplier of iPhones, has cast a spotlight on some of the harsher aspects of blue-collar life on the Chinese factory floor.   REUTERS/Bobby Yip  (CHINA - Tags: BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT) - GM1E65Q1AHV01

Americans buy more than $500 billion worth of Chinese goods per year. Image: REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Sophie Hardach
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Fears of a trade war are rattling financial markets after US President Donald Trump proposed tariffs on about $60 billion worth of Chinese goods, arguing this was necessary to fight unfair trade practices. China has already responded by announcing tariffs on $3 billion worth of American products, from pork to steel pipes. This chart shows what US consumers actually buy from China, with cell phones and other household goods making up the largest single category:

Image: Reuters

The Trump administration has repeatedly complained about China’s $375 billion trade surplus with the United States as evidence of unfair competition, accusing it of stealing American companies’ intellectual property. But China argues it should not be punished just because it doesn’t buy more US products. This second chart shows how the trade balance has worsened significantly in China’s favour over the years. Imports from China have ballooned to $505.6 billion, while American exports have consistently lagged behind:

Image: Reuters

The threat of the trade war between two of the world’s biggest economies has hit financial markets as investors worry it will hurt the global economy. “China doesn’t hope to be in a trade war, but is not afraid of engaging in one,” the Chinese commerce ministry has said.

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