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Chinese auto industry hits milestones in 2023, in vivid show of high-quality development

Chinese auto industry hits milestones in 2023, in vivid show of high-quality development

A large number of China-made cars are waiting for shipment for export at Yantai Port, East China's Shandong Province, on January 10, 2024. Photo: VCG

A large number of China-made cars are waiting for shipment for export at Yantai Port, East China’s Shandong Province, on January 10, 2024. Photo: VCG

China’s vehicle industry reached milestones in 2023, with record production and sales, according to industry data released on Thursday, paving the way for the country to potentially become the world’s largest car exporter. 

The momentous development of China’s auto industry is a vivid display of not only the success of China’s industrial upgrading, but also the country’s vast potential for high-quality development, experts noted. It also offered a powerful rebuttal to narratives of «China economy collapsing» or «China peaking,» which are prevalent in the Western world, they said. 

China’s car output exceeded 30.16 million units in 2023, up 11.6 percent year-on-year, and sales exceeded 30.09 million units, up 12 percent, according to data released by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM). Both output and sales set new records, according to the CAAM. 

Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of the China Passenger Car Association, said that the record numbers were a milestone for the Chinese auto industry, but more importantly, underscored vast potential. 

«The total output and sales figures set new records and also represented the new space for development, which has increased our expectations for market growth and the potential for promoting consumption,» Cui told the Global Times on Thursday.

Also crucially, China’s auto exports hit 4.91 million, up a whopping 58 percent year-on-year, the CAAM data showed. With such robust figures, China is expected to become the world’s biggest car exporter.

«It took China 55 years to increase the number of automobile exports from one to 1 million. In 2021, they exceeded 2 million, and in 2023, they reached 4.91 million, approaching 5 million,» Fu Bingfeng, executive vice president and secretary-general of the CAAM, was quoted by China Media Group as saying. 

Since its start in 1953, China’s auto industry has achieved one milestone after another. In 1956, China’s first domestically made Jiefang truck rolled off the production line, ending the long history of China being unable to make cars. In 2009, output and sales both exceeded 10 million for the first time, surpassing the US to be the world’s biggest car producer and seller, a title China has held for 15 years.

Before 2023, Japan was the world’s biggest auto exporter, but data during the year showed that China had overtaken Japan to become the world’s top car exporter. With an impressive number of 4.91 million in car exports for the full year, many believe that China surpassed Japan in 2023.

Li Yong, a senior research fellow at the China Association of International Trade, said that the record production and sales figures also represented a milestone for China’s entire manufacturing industry. 

«The development of the auto industry is a crucial indicator of a country’s manufacturing capabilities and its overall strength,» Li told the Global Times on Thursday, noting that the rise of China’s auto industry is a microcosm of the rise of China’s advanced manufacturing industry and its overall national strength.

More than just record production and sales numbers, China’s auto industry is steadily rising to the top in terms of technologies, particularly in the new-energy vehicle (NEV) industry, experts noted. 

In 2023, China exported 1.203 million NEVs, up 77.6 percent year-on-year, according to the CAAM.

China became the world’s largest source for patents in the area of electric vehicle powertrain batteries in the second quarter of 2023, according to GlobalData, an industry data provider. 

In September, Chinese NEV makers dominated an auto show in Munich, Germany, drawing global headlines. In the fourth quarter of 2023, Chinese carmaker BYD Co overtook US-based Tesla Inc to become the world’s biggest electric carmaker.

The rise of the NEV industry is a microcosm of the achievements made in China’s upgrade of its vast manufacturing industry, export sector and domestic market – all crucial to China’s high-quality development, experts said.

Li said that China’s robust NEV sector also propelled the country’s pursuit of renewable energies and green development, and supported the upgrade of China’s export industry. 

«NEVs became one of the top ‘new three items’ of China’s exports, with the other two being batteries and solar panels. It also highlighted China’s booming digital economy and high-quality development,» Li said.