China’s Clothing Industry in World Textile Value Chains

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Jean Ruffer


This paper analyses the expansion of China’s clothing industry in world textile value chains. Using data from interviews and observations throughout factory visits in China and other countries we show how private Guangdong entrepreneurs started China’s clothing manufacturing. Lacking experience in consumer markets and designing, original equipment manufacturing was the route Chinese frms took to expand into garment manufacturing. Low wages and low margins of profts became their original source of competitiveness and rising shares in global market sales. These beginnings saw little direct support from both national and local government policies, though few barriers were erected to restrict the growth of these frms. However, although China has managed to secure a huge slice of the world market in garment sales, it continues to specialize in the low value-added segments of value chains. The paper concludes by considering options Chinese entrepreneurs have for exploring upgrades within garment value chains.


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