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China: Textiles
Country Study > Chapter 7 > Industry > Manufacturing > Textiles


China has a long and rich history in production of silk, bast fiber, and cotton textiles. The earliest silk producer, China began exporting to West Asia and Europe around 20 B.C. Ramie, a grass used to produce woven fabrics, fish lines, and fish nets, was first cultivated around 1000 B.C. and is found in the southern provinces of Hunan, Hubei, Sichuan, Guangdong, and Guizhou, and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Cotton spinning and weaving was the largest domestic industry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. After a respectable but inconsistent performance from 1949 to 1978, textile production increased significantly with the introduction of the agricultural responsibility system ended, and the industry began to flourish.

From 1979 to 1984, the output value of the textile industry rose approximately 13 percent annually. In 1984 China had about 12,000 enterprises producing cotton and woolen goods, silk, linen, chemical fibers, prints and dyed goods, knitwear, and textile machinery. Textile production was 15.4 percent of the country's total industrial output value in 1984. Textile exports in 1984 (excluding silk goods) totaled US$4.15 billion, up 21.7 percent over 1983, and accounted for 18.7 percent of the nation's total export value. By 1986 textiles had replaced oil as the top foreignexchange source.

Traditionally, the coastal areas had the most modern textile equipment and facilities. Shanghai Municipality and Jiangsu Province were the nerve centers of the industry, accounting for 31.6 percent of the total gross-output value for textiles in 1983. Other major textile areas were Shandong, Liaoning, Hubei, Zhejiang, and Hebei provinces.

After 1949 cotton textile production was reorganized and expanded to meet consumer needs. Cotton cultivation increased in the areas around the established spinning centers in the port cities of Shanghai, Qingdao, Tianjin, and Guangzhou. New spinning and weaving facilities opened near the inland cotton-producing regions. In 1983 China produced 4.6 millions tons of cotton, more than double the 1978 total.

China still was the world's largest silk producer in 1983, manufacturing approximately 1 billion meters of silk textiles. Shanghai Municipality and Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces were the main silk centers. That year China also produced approximately 100,000 tons of knitting wool, 140 million meters of woolen piece goods, 3.3 million tons of yarn, and 541,000 tons of chemical fibers.

Data as of July 1987

Last Updated: July 1987

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for China was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

China Main Page Country Studies Main Page

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