China trumped the United States in 2004 as the world’s leading exporter of high-tech goods like laptop computers, mobile phones and digital cameras, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said on Monday.
Official data from the Paris-based OECD highlighted how fast the country, still Communist Party-controlled, has emerged as an economic power that the United States and other long-industrialized countries can no longer ignore.
China exported $180 billion worth of ICT (information and communication technology) goods in 2004, compared with U.S. exports of $149 billion, the OECD, a free-market organization whose 30-country membership does not include China, said.
China was likely to have kept the newly conquered top spot in 2005 too, but hard proof would take many months to collect, OECD officials said.
The United States was world leader in 2003 with $137 billion of exports of ICT goods, which include video equipment and electronic components, followed by China with $123 billion, the OECD said.
China, which began shifting 20 years ago from communism to what it calls a socialist market model, is now the world’s seventh largest economy, according to World Bank rankings.
It was recently admitted to the World Trade Organization but is constantly at odds with Washington and Europe over cut-price exports of cheap clothes and over state currency controls which its trading rivals say distort fair price competition.
The OECD said China used to depend on Europe and the United States for microchips and other components for high-tech goods, but that it was now increasingly self-sufficient and turning more to neighbors.
“The data show a shift towards more trade between China and other Asian countries, with a corresponding decline in ICT imports to this region from the European Union and the U.S.,” it said.
China was now turning to suppliers in Japan, Taipei, South Korea and Malaysia.
China’s Lenovo Group Ltd burst onto the world stage this year as the third-biggest maker of computers with the purchase of U.S. International Business Machines Corp.’s PC business, behind Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co.
What started out as a country that made most of the world’s clothes and toys is no longer happy to take a back seat. It is even developing a mobile phone technology that could end up rivaling the GSM and CDMA standards developed in Europe and the United States respectively.