In 15 years, China has become the top aluminium producer in the world. This major production capacity was built to meet the country’s growing internal needs from massive urbanization. Today’s production overcapacity follows an annual growth rate gone from 10% to 6.9%. The one-child policy led to a decline in the active population (people aged 18 to 50), as well as an economic slowdown forcing the country to rethink its industrial policy. It is expected to take over three decades to counter this downward population trend.


Even though its aluminium production is in overcapacity, China plans to add 2,000,000 tons to the 800,000-ton inventory accumulated in strategic reserves, which will impact the price of metal in the Chinese market. There has been strong domestic pressure to export this material—considered to be strategic until recently—whose energy input is highly subsidized. The abolition of the tax on semi-finished aluminium exports in May 2015 already resulted in some primary aluminium masked as semi-finished product being sold on the world market.

The Chinese aluminium smelting capacity is amongst the best performing in the world in terms of energy efficiency, the amount of energy to produce one ton of aluminium. This advanced technology has been developed by China and put to use in its gigantic new plants being commissioned on an ongoing basis.

annual production

31 000 000 mt/y

global production

55 %


1 378 458 000

energy sources for
electrolysis process

90% coal
10% hydroelectricity

number of smelters


carbon footprint

14 mt CO2e/mt Al

Data 2015 / March 2017

The downward population trend will take more than three decades to reverse.

Over 55% of the aluminum produced in the world comes from China.

At issue


Potential migration of 800 million people to the cities

Economic growth

10% to 6.9% slowdown

Single-child policy

30+ years to reverse downward population trend

Urban pollution

Public health affected by air quality

Aluminium in the world