China has managed to retain its position as the largest producer of textiles and clothing in the world. Despite setbacks in the form of reduced textile and apparel exports and increasing competition from countries like India, China’s textile industry has remained strong and thriving. One specific development that will set China apart from competitors in the near future is its ability to manufacture and meet market demands for innovative technical textiles.
The global technical textile industry was estimated to be worth USD 142 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach USD 165 billion by 2019. It’s one of the fastest-growing segments in the global textile and apparel industry, and is experiencing increased demand worldwide—especially from the US and Europe—due to rising incomes, technological advances in the fields of medicine and science, and growing concerns about the environment. Technical textiles are designed primarily for function rather than appearance, and are suitable for use in a wide variety of applications, including many in the aerospace, shipping, sports, agriculture, defence, health care, and construction industries.
China presently accounts for 30% of the global production for technical textiles, according to research conducted by Messe Frankfurt’s Texpertise Network. China’s leading position is followed by the Americas with 19% of global production, India with 18%, the EU with 16%, and the rest of the world with 17%. When it comes to technical textiles, there are a few factors that set China apart from competitor countries:
- Advancements in textile technology: Technological innovation is sweeping the Chinese textile and apparel market. This includes the adoption of more efficient and technologically advanced textile machinery that can be used to make quality products. According to the International Textile Manufacturers Federation, between 2000 and 2010 over 55% of spinning machines and over 68% of weaving machines delivered worldwide went to China; this number is expected to increase as the technical textile segment continues to grow.
- Larger workforce: On average, the size of Chinese textile companies is five times larger than companies in India, one of their largest competitor countries. Textile factories in China typically have more employees and equipment than Indian ones. For example, Vardhman Group, one of the largest spinning companies in India, has a capacity of 500,000 spindles, while Weiqiao Textile, one of China’s largest spinning companies, has a capacity of 3,000,000 spindles. On average, textile companies in China are five times larger than those in India, meaning that they have an easier time meeting the increasing global demand for technical textiles.
- Strong domestic market: There is consistent high demand for Chinese textile products, including technical textiles, in its domestic market. China consumes 13% of the total global technical textile production and the export dependency ratio of China’s textile and apparel industry is very low—at just 17% in 2011—meaning that the textile industry in China can remain strong even when there’s a decrease in exports and foreign demand.
These qualities make China a strong competitor in the technical textiles sector and the global textile and apparel market as a whole. Additionally, increasing investments in infrastructure and sophisticated supply chain management will give China a competitive edge.
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