Search Penny Hill Press

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

China’s Auto Sector Development and Policies: Issues and Implications

Rachel Tang
Analyst in Asian Affairs

The automobile industry, a key sector in China’s industrialization and modernization efforts, has been developing rapidly since the 1990s. In recent years, China has become the world’s largest automotive producer, with annual vehicle output of over 18 million units in 2011. China is now also the world’s biggest market for automobile sales. Meanwhile, China’s auto sector development and policies have caused concerns in the United States, from automotive trade, China’s failure to effectively enforce trade agreements and laws, to market barriers and government policies that increasingly favor Chinese manufacturers, which could affect business operations and prospects of international companies doing business in (or with) China.

China’s auto industry has developed extensively through foreign direct investment, which has come in the form of alliances and joint ventures between international automobile manufacturers and Chinese partners. These international automobile manufacturers, who generally dominate the higher end of the Chinese market, have focused on making cars for China’s large and fastgrowing market. The domestic Chinese automakers, who occupy the lower end of the market, struggle to improve design and quality to expand sales overseas.

China exports and imports relatively few vehicles. Most of the cars produced in China stay in China and its vehicle exports are mostly light trucks and passenger cars shipped to developing country markets. Automotive trade between the United States and China has increased in recent years, primarily in auto parts. In 2011, the United States imported over $12 billion in auto parts from China, making it the second-largest source of auto parts for U.S. imports (behind only Japan). Many of these imported parts are aimed at the aftermarket, as most of what China exports to the U.S. market now are standard products such as brake parts and electrical parts. But with high rates of investment and growth in China by the leading U.S. manufacturers of both cars and parts, major motor vehicle companies are increasingly sourcing parts from China.

There have been a number of auto sector trade disputes between the United States and China, addressing issues such as China’s implementation of its WTO obligations, failure to implement an effective IPR enforcement regime, market barriers such as high tariffs on vehicle imports, export restrictions of raw materials such as rare earths, and various forms of government assistance to domestic auto and parts companies, such as tire producers.

An emerging issue is that the Chinese government’s policies and measures are becoming increasingly restrictive towards foreign auto companies, while at the same time giving preferential support to its domestic car makers. As the central government designates cleanenergy vehicles and their components as one of the seven “strategic and emerging” industries (in which it aspires to become a world leader), foreign companies, such as GM, reportedly have been pressured to transfer technology and/or help their Chinese partners to develop these new technologies. These new restrictions and conditions imposed by the Chinese government have caused concerns among global auto companies regarding the business environment in China and how these measures may affect their business operations, growth plans, and competitiveness.

This report provides an overview of China’s auto sector development: vehicle production, sales, market drivers, foreign and domestic manufacturers, and automotive trade. It examines how the Chinese government policies and measures guide and often direct China’s auto sector development. In addition, this report discusses the prospects and implications for global automakers operating in China.

Date of Report: July 25, 2012
Number of Pages: 40
Order Number: R40924
Price: $29.95

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.

To Order:

R40924.pdf  to use the SECURE SHOPPING CART


Phone 301-253-0881

For email and phone orders, provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.

Follow us on TWITTER at or #CRSreports