Made in China Today, Tomorrow, and in 2025

Posted on August 17th, 2019

Made in China Today, Tomorrow, and in 2025

Made in China Today, Tomorrow, and in 2025

Made in China is ubiquitous.

Even as talk about a U.S.-China trade war increases, China is holding steadfast to President Xi Jinping's Made in China 2025 initiative, which aims to make China #1 in technology manufacturing and production by the year 2025. And, even as China and the United States enter into this trade war, President Trump's Administration has been careful not to target many consumer goods with tariffs; probably for fear of political backlash from the many everyday shoppers who would ironically feel the price increases. Chinese textile manufacturers are therefore expecting a boom in exports as that market remains free of additional tariffs and taxes. This is a welcomed scenario for many Chinese manufacturers, as some sources suggest that there has been a shift away from Chinese textiles in recent years, causing a domestic downturn in the market.

The Made in China 2025 initiative thrusts particular Chinese markets (including textile and apparel) into a rapidly-changing economic environment, insisting that Chinese manufacturers learn to thrive in a more dynamic, automation-focused, market. Because China's textile production does not focus on domestic customers, the innovation and changes in their market could make waves worldwide. Preeminent Chinese fashion blogger, Timothy Parent, has written that Chinese “brands are completely changing the perception of what 'Made in China' means.” Still, Chinese fashion companies––like Urban Revivo––are not aiming all of their growth efforts solely at Chinese customers but at all of the world's fashion consumers.

In the past, China was known for a single textile, silk. Today, however, China is the world's largest textile exporter. China is the number one importer of textiles bought in the European Union, and China has seen a 17% increase of textiles imported from other places for their domestic market. There is still a push by international fast fashion firms to try and find a home in China, but some Chinese producers are looking for ways to open up and innovate within a worldwide market while somehow trying to circumvent the harmful effects of Fast Fashion: environmental degradation from manufacturing waste and energy consumption, for instance. Innovative second-hand shops, environmentally-conscious textile producers, and crackdowns on textile pollution are components of this strategy.

Digestible reports outlining China's market share in textiles and apparel already exist. The story they seem to tell is that, despite slight overall value decreases in 2016, Chinese textile exports will continue to outpace their competitors in the EU, India, Bangladesh, and Vietnam––particularly as the buying power of China's wealthy and middle-class consumers grows in tandem with demand for trendy outfits and urban lifestyle goods. Before China's middle-class boom, however, fashion shopping for large swaths of China's population might have seemed frivolous. But today, the multi-billion dollar industry deserves the attention of trade organizations and serious academic research.

It is easy to argue that the rising standards of living for millions of Chinese is a net gain for the country and for the world. From the perspective of both the United States and China, no tariffs on textile and apparel imports are also positive because the average consumer will not feel any backlash in shopping malls. What remains to be seen, however, is the durability and sustainability of this export boom and the other kinds of consequences associated with any kind of mass production. After all, there still remain plenty of supply chain and labor problems in China's textile markets that go unresolved even with a turn towards technology, innovation, and 2025.

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