Mapping The World’s Trade Domination: USA & China’s Clout Since 1980

by howmuch

The U.S. and China have long been the world’s two largest economic powerhouses, and their impact can be seen in trading activity around the world. By comparing the U.S. and China’s biggest trade partners between 1980 and 2018, we can see how international relations have changed over the years and how these two superpowers have shaped the world economy.

Use this visualization

  • In 1980, the U.S. more or less dominated world trade. However, as the decades have passed, China has become a major trade partner for many countries around the world.
  • The U.S. and China trade war has had a major impact on the world economy, and while a trade deal has been reached, many are concerned this trade deal leaves too many questions unanswered.
  • Some believe that the U.S.-China trade deal is a major positive for the financial sectors in both countries.
  • The IMF says the U.S.-China trade deal provides a “pathway to peace” and is a positive sign for the future of the global economy.

To compare the U.S. and China’s major trade partners over the years, we pulled data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which tracks a variety of metrics and data regarding the performance of the world economy. By looking at the Direction of Trade Statistics (DOTS), we can see “the value of merchandise exports and imports disaggregated according to a country’s primary trading partner.”

Our visualization compares the dollars traded between China and the chosen country to that same country’s trade with the U.S. For example, if country ABC did $100m in trade with China and did $200M with the U.S., the ratio would show 50% in favor of the U.S.

Use this visualization

Top 5 U.S. Top Trade Partners in 2018 (Total Merchandise Trade, $M)

1. Canada: $617,382
2. Mexico: $611,528
3. Japan: $217,563
4. Germany: $183,558
5. Republic of Korea: $130,635

Top 5 China Top Trade Partners in 2018 (Total Merchandise Trade, $M)

1. Japan: $328,043
2. Republic of Korea: $312,520
3. Hong Kong: $312,258
4. Taiwan: $225,780
5. Germany: $184,368

After taking a look at our visualization, one of the first things you’re likely to notice is that very few countries actively participated in trade with China. Instead, the U.S. remained the largest trading partner for most of the world’s countries until around 2000 — at which point we can see China take a more active role in the global economy.

Since 1980, countries like Japan, which at one point almost exclusively traded with the United States, now rely on China for a majority of their trading activity. As demonstrated by the visualization, the world economy depends largely on these two economic powerhouses, which makes the prospect of a successful trade deal even more significant. While a “phase one” deal has been reached, it leaves many questions unanswered, making it difficult to predict the implications of the deal on the global economy. Still, though many questions remain, many believe this trade deal to be a step in the right direction, with the IMF calling it a “pathway to peace.”

The U.S. and China have been the world’s leading economic powers for some time, and by examining their trade activity over the last several decades, we can see the impact these countries have had on the global economy.

What do you think these numbers say about the state of the global economy? Do you think the U.S.-China trade deal is a step in the right direction? Let us know in the comment section below.