China is gradually shifting its role in the world textile and apparel supply chain. While China remains the largest apparel exporter, its market share based on value fell from 38.6 per cent in 2015 to 33.7 per cent in 2017. Its market shares in the world’s top three largest apparel import markets, the United States, EU, and Japan, also indicate a clear downward trend in the past five years.
Fashion brands and retailers are actively seeking alternative apparel sourcing bases to China. No country, including China, can forever keep its comparative advantage in making labor-intensive garments when its economy becomes more industrialized and advanced.
However, China is playing an increasingly important role as a textile supplier for apparel-exporting countries in Asia. For example, measured by value, 47 per cent of Bangladesh’s textile imports came from China in 2017, up from 39 per cent in 2005. Similar trends can be seen in Cambodia (up from 30 per cent to 65 per cent), Vietnam (up from 23 per cent to 50 per cent), Pakistan (up from 32 per cent to 71 per cent), Malaysia (up from 25 per cent to 54 per cent), Indonesia (up from 28 per cent to 46 per cent), Philippines (up from 19 per cent to 41 per cent) and Sri Lanka (up from 15 per cent to 39 per cent) over the same time frame.