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What Does the U.S. Import from China? Statistics to Know in 2024

Threecolts
Geri Mileva
Published
December 12, 2023
Modified
December 12, 2023
What Does the U.S. Import from China?

“Made in China” product labels aren’t only common around Asia—there are just as many in U.S. stores. Even Amazon is teeming with goods made in or imported from China. On top of that, most of the platform’s third-party sellers (60%) themselves are from China, while only 34.8% are from the U.S. With nearly 2 million third-party sellers on Amazon, this means China-based sellers make up over a million of them.

China imports aren't just found on Amazon. They're also sold in Walmart and other retail companies, both online and offline. In fact, the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIEE) noted record-high levels of China imports in 2022, almost reaching 2018’s peak levels.

In this article, we’ll identify the top products America imports from China, then go through the steps to selling China imports online. We’ll also share tips regarding selling imported products from the Asian superpower.

The Top 10 Products the U.S. Imports from China

Despite the Biden administration and the Congress’ trade restrictions on China, the U.S. continues to rely on the Asian country for many goods, especially the ten listed below. 

  1. Smartphones
  2. Digital automation systems
  3. Toys and scale models
  4. Video game consoles and console parts
  5. Media transmission systems
  6. Lithium batteries
  7. Display monitors
  8. Pre-dosed medications
  9. Computer accessories and other data processors
  10. Plastic goods

Let’s delve deeper into these products and what makes China their key importer.

Smartphones

While smartphones are the most commonly used device in America, no homegrown tech company actually manufactures them. Even Apple is heavily reliant on China for manufacturing and assembling iPhones. Although the increasing tension between Beijing and Washington pushed Apple to start looking more into India as an iPhone manufacturer, smartphones from Chinese manufacturers continue to have a strong market in the U.S.

For instance, Huawei has made a surprising return to the U.S. market despite being sanctioned by the Trump administration in 2020. Thanks to a successful partnership with Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), Huawei unveiled the new Mate 60 series phone in the U.S. in August this year.

OnePlus, Xiaomi, and RealMe are also Chinese smartphone brands widely available in the U.S. Their lower price points made them a popular alternative to high-end brands like Apple and Samsung.

Digital Automation Systems

Digital automation systems, AKA automatic digital processing machines or devices, are computers, servers, and other equipment that can perform tasks based on programmed instructions. Imports of automatic digital processing machines were reported to reach $283.593 million in September 2023. 

However, research indicates a declining trend in importing these products from China. Its value only reached $182.263 million in October 2023, 155.5% lower than the previous month. Overall, imports of digital automation systems dropped by 22.58% in 2022, the lowest point since 2010.

Toys and Scale Models

Toys and Scale Models

The U.S. imports wheeled kids’ toys and scale models from China. However, like the case with digital automation systems, imports are also declining, falling 38.87% lower in 2022. On the other hand, imports of scale models, puzzles, and other toys were at $17.8 billion in 2022, higher than 2021 levels. 

Barbie, Hot Wheels, and other Mattel toys are actually made in China and Indonesia. Mattel shut down its last U.S. factory in 2001, so the company has been relying on its international toy factories for decades.

Video Game Consoles and Console Parts

China was the most prominent importer of video game consoles in the U.S. in May 2023. The U.S. received 3 million units from China-based manufacturers in that period. These products accounted for 76% of total video game console imports at the time. 

Even consoles from Japanese brands like Sony are made in China and Japan, with some units 100% made in China and imported to the U.S. The same goes for the Xbox console.

Media Transmission Systems

The U.S. is largely dependent on China for media transmission systems, such as telecommunications equipment and surveillance devices. However, selling Huawei and ZTE products was banned in the country last year because of the national security risk they supposedly pose. Despite this, as previously mentioned, Huawei was still able to release its newest smartphone series in the U.S. 

Certain CCTV camera brands from China have also been banned. This affects Amazon sellers, who can be restricted from selling China-manufactured surveillance equipment without authorization from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Meanwhile, major retailers like Home Depot and Best Buy have stopped offering Dahua and Hikvision security cameras, not because of the ban but because they didn’t want to be associated with the Chinese brands’ issues.

That said, you can still import media transmission systems from China—just note that special permission may be required. Always review the FCC’s policies or consult a legal counsel before importing media transmission systems from China. 

Lithium Batteries

Imports of lithium batteries from China reached record-high levels in 2022 due to the continuing demand for electric vehicles and energy storage stations. Tesla is partnered with Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd (CATL), a Chinese supplier that’s among the world’s largest battery cell makers. This company also provides the technology for Ford’s battery factory in Marshall, Michigan.

Overall, 87% of all U.S. battery imports in the fourth quarter of 2022 came from Chinese manufacturers, including CATL and BYD Co. Ltd. On the other hand, imports from South Korean battery manufacturers, such as L.G. Energy Solutions Ltd., Samsung SDI Co. Ltd., and S.K. Innovation Co. Ltd., were small in comparison. They made up only 5.6% of U.S. battery imports in the same period.

Display Monitors

American manufacturers build solid computers and P.C. parts, including display monitors. However, since it's impossible to build an all-American P.C., manufacturers continue to rely on Asian countries, such as China, for certain parts such as display monitors and inner components.

Computer monitors are among the products imported from China that received a tariff delay last year. This delay prevented their prices from increasing, especially during the holiday season.

Lenovo is an example of a tech company offering display monitors imported from China. Asus, on the other hand, sources nearly 80% of its products from China, with the remaining 20% coming from Taiwan, Brazil, Indonesia, and Europe. 

Pre-dosed Medications

The U.S.’s dependence on China for pharmaceuticals is increasing, notwithstanding the rocky trade relationship between the two countries. The pharmaceutical trade between the two countries has increased from 0.6% to nearly 3% of the overall trade value over the last five years. This growth is primarily fueled by advanced medications like cancer treatments and antibiotics rather than an increase in inexpensive Chinese imports. The trade is balanced, considering that the U.S. imported $10.2 billion and exported $9.3 billion to China in this sector.

Computer Accessories and Other Data Processors

As mentioned, building a PC with all parts made in the U.S. is still impossible, so tech manufacturers rely on Asian countries for certain parts. Printed circuit boards (PCBs), for example, are primarily made in Asia because of their factories' infrastructure, flexibility, and low-cost labor. Such an ecosystem is hard to replicate in the U.S., according to Strategy Analytics's Sravan Kundojjala.

Other computer accessories most likely imported from China are low-cost keycaps, wireless mice, and audio devices. 

Plastic Goods

While America is known for being a prominent plastic exporter, it also imports plastic goods from China. Its dependence on China for plastic might even grow because of the REDUCE Act, which imposes a per-pound tax fee on the sale of virgin plastic resin used to produce single-use plastics. Since consumers will also bear this cost, companies may be forced to resort to getting cheaper plastic goods from China.

Examples of common plastic goods imported from China are keycaps, computer components, phone parts, and toys. These products are widely available on Amazon and other retailers.

Is it Advisable to Sell Imported Products from China?

Since many American companies source their goods from China, there's no reason to turn away from China's imports. However, it’s best to avoid tech products that may be subject to restrictions, like smartphone chips, telecommunication equipment, and surveillance devices.

Stick to “safe” goods like toys, clothing, footwear, and home goods. But still, remember to check in with suppliers regarding how their products are made to ensure that they don't violate any U.S. laws.

How to Sell Products Imported from China

How to Sell Products Imported from China

There are a couple of good reasons to import products from China. They are inexpensive and fast to produce. If you want to sell made-in-China goods, you can start on Amazon, where you can ship inventory to the FBA directly from China.

Follow these steps to sell products imported from China on Amazon.

Step 1: Find a profitable product to sell and a trustworthy supplier.

With the U.S. placing restrictions on certain Chinese suppliers, it’s crucial to choose products from a vetted manufacturer. You can easily find a profitable product to sell and a trustworthy supplier using an eCommerce management tool. Below are the two best tools to consider:

Threecolts

Threecolts provides a wealth of tools and solutions for Amazon, eBay, and Walmart sellers. You can use TacticalArbitrage, Threecolts’ Amazon arbitrage software, to research products and wholesale deals. It searches thousands of stores even when you’re not using it, letting you discover new businesses daily. You can also analyze the competition and sales velocity of every product, helping you decide how many units to order from a supplier.

If you already have a supplier, you can upload their wholesale manifest to the software to let TacticalArbitrage analyze it and identify profitable deals. Threecolts also has an incoming tool for monitoring FBA fees that will especially come in handy for computing the costs of shipping inventory from China to an Amazon fulfillment center.

Jungle Scout

Jungle Scout is an Amazon-focused eCommerce management tool with a supplier database that you can use to find verified suppliers worldwide. You can gauge a supplier’s reputation by looking at its customer volume or confirmed shipments. You can also match a specific Amazon product to suppliers or focus your search by brand, company, or supplier name.

Additionally, you can use the supplier database’s Supplier Tracker to compare supplier quotes, manage purchase orders, and track relevant information. Once you’ve found a reliable supplier that agrees to your order, the Supplier Tracker can generate a purchase order and keep records of your transaction.

Step 2: Choose a shipping method.

There are three ways to ship inventory from China to the Amazon FBA:

The second option may be the most efficient since it ships your inventory directly from your supplier in China. This service delivers your cargo with fewer stops, resulting in shorter lead times and quicker restocking. It can reduce your FBA inventory costs since you can book freight transportation at competitive prices, coordinate with fewer logistics providers, and experience smoother delivery.

You can also ship from China to Amazon Warehousing & Distribution (AWD), a low-cost bulk storage solution that can optimize your FBA stock. It ensures smooth cross-border logistics, customs clearance, and auto-replenishment. It’s only available for shipments from China to the U.S., so it’s wise to take advantage of this service if you’re selling imported products.

However, using Amazon Global Logistics means you can’t examine your inventory before sending it to the FBA. If quality checks are non-negotiable to you, shipping products from your own warehouse to an Amazon fulfillment center makes more sense. In that case, you need a third-party logistics company (3PL) to deliver your products to your warehouse. Once you’re done with the quality checks, you can send the products to the FBA using an Amazon-partnered carrier. However, this option is expensive since you’ll be paying for two carriers. 

The third option, shipping products from China to the FBA using your own freight forwarder, is simpler. However, your carrier must use Amazon shipping labels for all of your packages or pallets, or else the FBA may reject them.

Step 3: Set up your shipments on Amazon Seller Central.

Once you’ve decided how you want to ship products from China to the FBA, set up your shipments on Amazon Seller Central. Go to “Manage Inventory” and select the items you want to send to the FBA. Click “Send/replenish inventory,” then enter your supplier’s address in the “Ship from” text field. If you’re shipping from your own warehouse, type its address in the “Ship from” field.

Step 4: Apply barcodes, carton labels, and/or pallet labels where needed.

Your supplier from China must apply Amazon barcodes to every item they’re shipping to the FBA. They must also apply carton labels to each box. If they are shipping pallets, they must also put labels on each of the pallet’s sides. This step is required even if you use Amazon Global Logistics.

Step 5: Set a shipping schedule.

You can set shipping schedules on the “Send to Amazon” workflow. Amazon Global Logistics will be notified of this schedule and pick up your shipments on the specified date and time. If you’re shipping through another freight forwarder, talk to them about a convenient schedule for pick-up and delivery. Additionally, ensure that your freight forwarder has experience shipping products to the FBA so that they’re aware of the requirements.

Step 6: Check out your supplier’s shipping services.

Some suppliers in China can ship directly to the FBA with little to no involvement from you. Ask your supplier if they offer this service to determine which shipping method saves the most money. 

The Future of Importing Products from China to the U.S.

While imports from China in 2022 almost reached peak levels from 2018, the case is the opposite in 2023. The value of U.S. imports from China dropped to roughly $34.33 billion, marking a 25% decline from the past year’s import value.

If the downward trend continues, China’s share of the U.S. import market in 2023 could be the lowest in almost two decades. Many factors play a part in this trend, but the current administration’s trade restrictions on China could be the primary motivator for U.S. companies to find suppliers elsewhere.

The sharp decline in imports from China exceeds the nearly 7% drop in imports from the rest of the world. It also highlights U.S. consumers’ decreased demand after a post-pandemic spending spree. Trade data shows that tech products, such as laptops and computers, are now sourced from India, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Mexico. Even the iPhone may no longer be made in China, as JP Morgan predicted that by 2025, 1 out of 4 iPhones will be made in India.

Asus, one of Taiwan’s top laptop makers, recently shared its plans to relocate its critical component suppliers from China to India. This potentially makes it wise to pay more attention to India as a product supplier if you want to sell imported goods.

Nonetheless, China maintains its status as a global superpower when it comes to importing goods. Plus, considering that a leading marketplace such as Amazon ships directly from China, it’s highly unlikely that the U.S. will stop importing products from China altogether.

Wrapping Up

The U.S.’s trade relations with China may be something outside of our control, but it’s perfectly safe to import goods from them. As long as you’re abiding by the law and not bypassing restrictions, you should be able to sell China-made products freely. 

Still, it’s crucial to stay updated on any news regarding suppliers and brands from China. It may also be necessary to start looking at other countries offering low-cost but high-quality goods, like India, Vietnam, and Mexico. 

Lastly, always use eCommerce management tools, like Threecolts, to analyze the suppliers of the products you want to sell online. Browsing Alibaba is also helpful, but an eCommerce management tool will save more time and effort in determining a supplier’s track record.