Share of the World Commodity Consumption, China and United States, c2020

World Commodity Consumption by China and United States

Sources: United States Geological Survey, BP Statistical Review of World Energy, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, United States Department of Agriculture.

The growth of China as an export-oriented economy has been accompanied by substantial growth in the consumption and import of key commodities. The consumption of 54% of the world’s cement and iron ore reflects the massive capital investment and related construction activities such as real estate and transport infrastructure. It must be considered that a share of the national commodity consumption is used in the manufacturing of goods that will be exported to foreign markets. Thus, a share of China’s commodity consumption is attributed to consumption taking place elsewhere, such as in the United States and Western Europe. These figures also underline that the “China effect” on the commodity sectors has been highly significant in demand and the reorientation of cargo flows. Dietary preferences in terms of sources of protein (eggs and pork) and carbohydrates (rice) underline the size of the Chinese market for food products.

The United States, which is still the world’s largest economy measured in GDP, consumes significantly fewer resources than China in several key commodity sectors. The only commodity which is comparatively consumed more is oil, as it underlines the high level of mobility of the American economy. The two economies are in two different stages of their economic development, and infrastructure accumulation has entered a phase of maturity in the United States. At the same time, China remains within its peak growth years with large consumption of construction-based materials (e.g. iron ore and cement).