South Korea's $72.2bn surplus with the People's Republic in fact tops a list of more than 40 nations that export more to the country than they import from it, followed by Switzerland and Australia, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Besides commodity exporters such as Iran and machinery producers like Germany, smaller economies such as Ireland, Finland and Laos round out the tally.
Imports by the world’s biggest exporter show how its humming factories prop up other economies — and for some of those, what’s on the line should they find themselves involved with territorial disputes or geopolitical tensions with one of their biggest customers.
The data itself can be skewed as a result of those tensions. The IMF and World Bank omit data from Taiwan. If included, the island would outrank all other economies except South Korea with a China surplus (including Hong Kong) of $67bn in 2016.
In Asia, South Korea and Malaysia are among the more vulnerable to China’s economic arm-twisting, while Japan and Vietnam look relatively immune, according to Bloomberg Intelligence estimates based on their trade surpluses with China as a share of total output.
One of China’s biggest appetites is for machines and electronics from South Korea, Malaysia and Germany, according to World Bank data from 2015, the most recent year available.
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