China’s Global Leadership List – Charts and Facts, 2020

<For more discussions on this topic, check out my new book China, China, Chyyna: Greatest Disruption to American Century>

A vast majority of Americans have absolutely no clue how advanced China has become. Look at the social media comments, and it’s clear that too many Americans – especially Trump supporters – are filled with misinformation and prejudice. “China is 100 years behind” … “All Chinese products are crap” … “China can’t innovate” … “It’s a communist, poor, polluted country” … and, of course, the most popular theme is “China’s economy is about to collapse.” It’s hard to change these opinions, since those people reinforce their biases by gleefully consuming and sharing only anti-China articles. Anything remotely positive about China is attacked as “Chinese propaganda.”

SThis potent mix of ignorance and hubris is also precisely why western corporations gladly and voluntarily shared their intellectual property (IP) with their Chinese joint-venture partners. The term “forced technology transfer” was invented retroactively only after Chinese corporations started threatening western profits — for example: before U.S. sanctions, Huawei had overtaken Apple, Nokia and Ericsson in smartphones, 5G and telecom infrastructure respectively; Alibaba and Tencent process 50x more mobile payments than the US; and the most valuable (ByteDance) and the most innovative (Meituan) startups are Chinese.

While it’s true that China as whole has a long way to go in GDP-per-capita, many big cities in China are essentially “developed economies.” Plus, China has surpassed the US in many areas and is catching up in others.

If you don’t know your competitor, you’re certain to lose the game. So here are some quick statistics on China’s global leadership:

Economy, Manufacturing, Trade

=> #1 in PPP GDP (been so since 2014 when it surpassed the US)


=> #2 in nominal GDP ($13.5 trillion in 2018 and $14.4 trillion in 2019. In 2020, China’s GDP was ¥102 trillion, which will be around $15 trillion). In 2020, for the first time, China surpassed the EU in terms of GDP — the latter’s GDP fell substantially due to Brexit.

GDP super chart

=> #1 in exports (been so since 2009 when it overtook Germany)

=> #1 in container traffic (40% of global market). 7 out of the Top 10 busiest seaports are in China


=> #2 importer ($2.1 trillion)

=> #1 in manufacturing value added (been so since 2010 when China took the crown from the US, which had been #1 for the previous 110 years). The chart below is based on data from the World Bank

Manufacturing Value Added 2 - China, Japan, US

In spite of coronavirus/COVID-19, China’s manufacturing continues to grow and accounts for 28% of global manufacturing. In fact, China is as big as the US, Japan and Germany combined.

=> #1 in foreign exchange reserves (>$3 trillion)

=> #1/#2 holder of US debt (>$1 trillion)

=> #1 banking system (twice the size of the US, in terms of assets). Surpassed the EU in 2016.


=> #1 trade partner for 130 countries (trade = exports + imports). And for 37 countries, China is their #1 export destination (meaning, they sell the most goods to China).

=> #1 in contribution to global GDP growth for the past decade (25-35%, which is twice that of the US). That is, if the world GDP grows by $100, then $25-$35 comes from China.


=> #1 in steel, cement, aluminum production (link, link, link). In three years (2012 – 2015), China used more cement than the US did in the entire 20th century! (link)

=> #1 in electricity generation (link). In 2019, China generated more electricity than the next three countries combined — i.e. USA, India, and Russia!

=> #1 importer of crude oil (link)

=> #2 oil refiner, having surpassed Europe. Within a year or two, China will also surpass the US, which has been the #1 refiner for more than 160 years!

=> #1 in sales/installation of industrial robots, accounting for 38% of global market in 2019 (link). China bought 4x as many industrial robots as the US. Cumulatively, in 2019, there were 780,000 industrial robots in China, accounting for 29% of world’s market share.

=> #1 in manufacturing of conventional cars and commercial vehicles (>26 million per year)


=> #2 in hi-tech manufacturing (Yeah, China isn’t just making t-shirts anymore)

Manufacturing HI-TECH -- data from NSF -

=> #2 in billionaires (415 billionaires as of 2020). Note: according to Chinese Hurun Report, there are 878 billionaires in China, as of October 2020. That would be more than the U.S.

=> #2 in millionaires (5 million millionaires)


=> #2 stock market, by market cap (overtook Japan in 2014)

=> #2 bond market, worth $16 trillion (link)

=> #1 in representation in Global Fortune 500 companies. (surpassed the USA in 2020). The chart below is from 2019. By mid-2020, mainland China had 124 and the US had 121 companies.


General Well-Being, Optimism, and Satisfaction with Government

#1 in happiness in the world. 93% of Chinese said they were happy in an Ipsos poll in 2020.

#3 in Law and Order and #5 in “feeling safe while walking alone” in the world — Gallup poll. 90% Chinese said they feel safe while walking alone (in the U.S., it was 75%).

95% of Chinese are satisfied with the central government in Beijing (CPC — Communist Party of China. It’s incorrectly called “CCP” in the U.S.). This is from a 13-year-long study from Harvard University.

90% of Chinese people trust their government and 82% trust the business leaders — Edelman Trust Poll 2020. And China ranked #1.

90% of Chinese in 2016 said their country was moving in the right direction (“on the right track”). (Ipsos poll)

93% of Chinese felt hopeful about the future (YouGov poll, 2017). Most optimistic in the world! In the same poll, 41% of Chinese said that the world is getting better, while only 6% of Americans said the same.

In a large face-to-face Pew Research poll, 82% of Chinese said that their children will be financially better off than the parents. In the same poll, nearly 90% said that China’s economy is “ very good” or “somewhat good.”

73% of Chinese say that China is democratic. Meanwhile only 49% of Americans say the same. (Democracy Perception Index 2020). Also, in the same poll, 84% of Chinese say the democracy is important, while only 73% of Americans say the same.


=> #1 in agricultural production of rice, wheat, potato, beer(!), tea, apple, strawberry, grapes and numerous other grains, vegetables and fruits. (link)


Poverty Reduction and Growth of Middle Class

=> #1 in Middle Class population (350 million in 2018; and it overtook the US in 2015)

=> #1 country in the wealthiest Top 10% of global households (overtook USA). Now there are 100 million Chinese worth $110K or more.

=> #1 in poverty elimination (800 million lifted out of extreme poverty). Extreme poverty will be practically 0% in 2020.

=> #1 in online/e-commerce retail sales (3x the US)

retail ecommerce sales

=> #1 in personal luxury goods sales (35% of global market)

=> #1 automobile market with about 280 million cars (total number of registered cars). Surpassed the U.S. in 2020.

=> #1 retail market in the world by 2019 or by 2020 ($5.6 trillion) ($5 trillion)


=> #1 luxury car market (Example: 650,000 premium BMW’s were manufactured and sold in China in 2020 — compare that to 250,000 sold in the U.S.).


=> #1 in international tourism spending (In 2010, Chinese tourists spent half as much as Americans; and by 2017, China was spending twice as much as the US)

tourism spending

=> #1 box office (movie theater market) in the world. Surpassed North America in 2020.

Technology Superpower

=> #1 market in the world for IT products and services. Surpassed the U.S. in 2019.

=> #1 in Internet users (China had only 2 million internet users in 1998. It then grew to 300 million by 2008 and 900 million by early 2020).


=> #2 in Unicorns (startup companies worth more than $1 billion). 142 in China versus 175 in US. In 2020, the number of Unicorns are 227 in China versus 233 in the USA). Interestingly, 16 Unicorns in the US were founded by Chinese immigrants or Chinese Americans.

Uncorns - rise of China

=> #2 in venture capital funding ($100 billion of new venture capital funding for about 2,900 startups last year )

VC Rise of China

=> #1 in e-commerce (42% of world market)

=> #1 in 4G mobile network (2 billion users)

=> #1 in 5G network, smartphones and users. 600,000 5G base stations and 140 million users by the end of 2020. Also, China accounts for 72% of 5G smartphone users in late 2020.

=> #1 in Internet users (830 million people) and fiber-optic broadband users (320 million)

=> #1 in smartphones (Chinese brands have 50% of the global market)

Huawei smartphone trend 2

=> #1 in solar, wind and hydroelectric power (link). #1 in total renewable energy capacity — about 860 GW as of 2020 (hydropower = 360 GW link; solar energy = 240 GW link; wind power = 240 GW link; and biomass = 20 GW link).

=> #1 in electric cars – manufacturing and sales (link). Also #1 in total number of electric cars on the road — China accounted for 47% of world’s EV cars in operation (as of end of 2019). In 2020, EV sales in China (1.3 million) was larger than the next four countries — Germany, USA, UK and France — combined.

EV market Sales up to 2018

=> #1 in consumer drones (70% of global market)

=> #1 in supercomputers (227 out of the 500 supercomputers are Chinese)

=> #1 in mobile payments (50x larger than the US)

Infrastructure Giant

=> #1 in skyscrapers – more than half of all skyscrapers are in China (link)


=> #1 in high-speed rail or bullet train (38,000 Km or 23,800 miles by the end of 2020) (link)


=> #1 in the world in subway systems. Length of more than 6,000 km of metro in more than 33 cities by 2020 (link, link, link); and the total urban rail transit was more than 8,000 km long (this includes subways, trams, and monorail). (link)

+> #1 in total length of highway or expressway. As of 2020, China’s interstate highway was 155,000 km long — twice that of the U.S.

=> #1 in shipbuilding (link)

=> #1 in world’s longest, highest and other record breaking bridges (YouTube video)

=> #1 in global infrastructure projects. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) involves 152 countries and international organizations (link). By early 2021, 46 countries in Africa had joined BRI. (link)

Belt and Road 1c

Science, Research & Development

=> #1 in patents — accounting for almost half of all patents in the world!

=> #1 in international patentsaccording to WIPO. The US had been #1 since 1978 when WIPO/PCT was established. China had 58,990 international patents in 2019. Here’s an infographics from WIPO:

=> #1 in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) college graduates (4x as many as the US)

=> #1 in massive online open courses (MOOC), with 30 platforms and 540 million students by 2020. (link)

=> #1 in scientific publications since 2016. And also catching up on the Top 10% and Top 1% of these papers/articles. (link)

=> #1 in the world in math, science and reading proficiency among high school students

=> #1 in 5G (China owns about 40% of 5G patents, and the world’s leading 5G vendor and patent holder is none other than Huawei). By the end of 2020, China had 700,000 5G base stations — accounting for 70% of world’s market — and 150 million 5G users/subscribers.

=> #1 in Artificial Intelligence (AI) funding, startups and publications (link, link). In 2019, with 110,000 applications, China also surpassed the U.S. for the first time in AI patents. In 2020, China became #1 in citations of #AI papers. (link)

=> #1 in R&D spending in 2019 – according to US National Science Board; here’s an updated article for 2020. In the chart below, brown = USA and purple = China. The chart shows only up to 2017.


=> #2 in number of satellites in orbit/space (total of 363 active satellites as of March 2020). In 2018, China became the first country to land on the far side of the moon. In both 2018 and 2019, China was #1 in rocket launches. In 2020, China had 39 launches, just behind the U.S. In 2020, all the 35 navigational satellites of Chinese Beidou-3 became fully operational, making it a viable competitor to America’s GPS. In 165 capitals around the world, Beidou is more accessible than GPS.

What should the US do now? Try to “contain” China? Start World War III to maintain our global hegemony? Become depressed and paranoid? Thankfully, the answer to all those questions is, “NO.” There are constructive things that America can and should do to prepare for the future. I will discuss those in a future article.

-Chris Kanthan


  1. OH, China surprise The Whole World, and its not new in chinese historiens or China, in The Tång dynasty China was The big Power when The emperor was a very curious one and was interested in budha teaching and applied it to run The country which Made China The biggest country in merchsndise country and so forth, its really Nice to informations to know cause I was in China 2001 when I saw The country were advising The people to concerntrate in economy, I ve never dreamt of Within 10 The country Bloom like spring flowers and now even in human resources, I just pray and hope That The coroona virus thing dont destroy China får too Much, Tao ( God) bless China.


  2. The fairess and trufhful news so far i came across. So sorry for the American under Trump together with most of their news are nothing but lies and low rated rethoric on a daily basis. Poor America. A nation in tears.


  3. China also happen to be the biggest producer of machinery and related industrial equipment for the past 2 decades.

    Machine tools alone, China ranked as the biggest manufacturer and consumer, but ranked fourth (?) or fifth globally in export


  4. All that still being ‘developing’ country.
    Imagine China’s output in science and technology, innovation when it will become fully developed country and achieve per capita above $20k, not to even mention 40k or 100k
    China will shake the world, starting from 2021, that year it is projected China becoming high income = developed, crossing $12k per capita

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That’s why the US is so scared and hysterical trying to contain China. But as you say at the end of your article, that will be to no avail. The best way forward is to learn to share thy neighbour’s strength and work together for the good of human kind. But that is not the mindset of the US nor of the West.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Very informative and useful.
    In 1980 already, USA imported many goods from China and they were of good quality. But cliches have a long life!
    And everybody knows that most Americans are not very well informed about the world anyway.


  7. A data based analysis of China at last, it will not silence to anti China movement in USA and Europe but it does give a solid fact base with which to combat the lies and half truths

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Como acompanho com alguma regularidade a evolução da China, admitia conhecer razoavelmente a realidade do país. Ao ler este artigo, fiquei estupefacto com a minha ignorância sobre o verdadeiro poder actual! Só poderei ficar feliz por tais feitos históricos e pelo contributo que a RPC pode dar ao mundo!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It is about time someone telling the truth and facts about China other than bad mouth, false accusations, brain washed publicities.


  10. I like to know if the performance figures include the portion of foreign participation especially US companies operating in China?


  11. Thank you , Chris. For your info. And you did not forget to get some humor in the end of your report. Sid C. Ng
    Canadian by choice. Chinese by birth.

    Liked by 1 person

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