China is becoming less dependent on American farmers, but US export dependence on China remains high

China is becoming less dependent on American farmers, but US export dependence on China remains high


Five years ago, US exports to China cratered in response to President Donald Trump’s trade war. Overall, US exports continue to suffer. Even in agriculture trade—a rare bright spot—worrying signs are developing. China has shifted purchases away from the United States to reduce its reliance on US suppliers, but US farmers remain highly dependent on the Chinese market.

In 2022, around 19 percent of US agriculture exports went to China, up from 14 percent in 2017 and 13 percent in 2009.[1] Meanwhile, the share of Chinese imports from the US fell to 18 percent of total agriculture imports in 2022, down from 27 percent in 2009.

US soybean exports, the country’s most valuable export crop to China, remain highly reliant on China, although this dependence has eased slightly in recent years. Just over half of all US soybean exports went to China in 2022, down from 60 percent in some years leading up to the trade war. But China is much less reliant on US farmers than it once was, sourcing 31 percent of all imported soybeans from the United States, down from 49 percent in 2009.  

During the trade war, when China targeted soybeans and other US agricultural products with retaliatory tariffs, American farmers had to be bailed out with tens of millions of dollars in federal subsidies. Both sides have the same fear: that as the bilateral relationship deteriorates the other will suddenly weaponize trade flows and restrict imports or exports. While US farmers remain vulnerable to the whims of Beijing, Chinese importers are diversifying their sourcing to become less reliant on the United States.

This PIIE Chart is adapted from Chad P. Bown and Yilin Wang’s blogFive years into the trade war, China continues its slow decoupling from US exports.


1. Agriculture here is defined as per the purchase commitments in the Economic and Trade Agreement Between the United States of America and the People's Republic of China: Phase One.

More From