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China’s Foreign Trade: Perspectives From the Past 150 Years

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  • Wolfgang Keller
  • Ben Li
  • Carol H. Shiue

Abstract

This paper studies the trade of China in the past 150 years, starting from the first opening of China after the Opium War. The main purpose of the paper is to identify what is (and was) China’s ‘normal’ level of foreign trade, and how these levels changed under different trade regimes, from 1840 to the present. We present new evidence on China’s foreign trade during the treaty port era (1842-1948), drawn from disaggregated trade data collected by the Chinese Maritime Customs Service, that yields important findings for current research. First, although the volume of foreign trade remained limited initially, there was a notable expansion in the diversity of products, with many new goods being imported into China. Second, the regional diffusion of foreign goods through China was greatly facilitated by the expansions of the port system. Third, the importance of Hong Kong as an intermediary in China’s trade has undergone long-term fluctuations suggestive of learning effects. China’s recent wave of liberalization has led by the early 1990s to a trade level comparable to the high of the 1920s. While much of China’s recent growth in world trade is in line with her income growth, there is no doubt that China’s trade openness today, comparable by some measures to Denmark’s, is a stunning reversal relative to the pre-1978 and also the pre-1840 period. The paper emphasizes the roles that history and institutional change have played in this.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Wiley Blackwell in its journal The World Economy.

Volume (Year): 34 (2011)
Issue (Month): 6 (06)
Pages: 853-892

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Handle: RePEc:bla:worlde:v:34:y:2011:i:6:p:853-892

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References

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  1. Robert C. Feenstra & Shang-Jin Wei, 2010. "China's Growing Role in World Trade," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number feen07-1, October.
  2. Christian Broda & David E. Weinstein, 2004. "Globalization and the Gains from Variety," NBER Working Papers 10314, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Keller, Wolfgang & Shiue, Carol Hua, 2004. "Market Integration and Economic Development: A Long-Run Comparison," CEPR Discussion Papers 4310, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  6. Ahn, JaeBin & Khandelwal, Amit K. & Wei, Shang-Jin, 2011. "The role of intermediaries in facilitating trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 73-85, May.
  7. Antras, Pol & Costinot, Arnaud, 2011. "Intermediated Trade," Scholarly Articles 4784024, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  8. Ronald Findlay & Kevin H. O'Rourke, 2007. "Power and Plenty: Trade, War and the World Economy in the Second Millennium (Preface)," The Institute for International Integration Studies Discussion Paper Series iiisdp205, IIIS.
  9. Irene Brambilla & Amit Khandelwal & Peter Schott, 2007. "China's Experience Under the Multifiber Arrangement (MFA) and the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC)," NBER Working Papers 13346, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Gordon H. Hanson & Raymond Robertson, 2010. "China and the Manufacturing Exports of Other Developing Countries," NBER Chapters, in: China's Growing Role in World Trade, pages 137-159 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Amiti, Mary & Freund, Caroline, 2008. "The anatomy of China's export growth," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4628, The World Bank.
  12. William R. Cline, 2010. "Renminbi Undervaluation, China's Surplus, and the US Trade Deficit," Policy Briefs PB10-20, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  13. Nunn, Nathan, 2007. "Relationship-Specificity, Incomplete Contracts, and the Pattern of Trade," Scholarly Articles 4686801, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  14. Brandt,Loren, 2005. "Commercialization and Agricultural Development," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521022866, November.
  15. Andrei A. Levchenko, 2004. "Institutional Quality and International Trade," IMF Working Papers 04/231, International Monetary Fund.
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  17. Kyoji Fukao & Kozo Kiyota & Ximing Yue, 2006. "China's Long-Term International Trade Statistics: By Commodity, 1952-1964 and 1981-2000," Hi-Stat Discussion Paper Series d05-147, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
  18. Rawski, Thomas G., 1969. "Chinese dominance of treaty port commerce and its implications, 1860-1875," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 7(1-2), pages 451-473.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Wilson Au-Yeung & Alison Keys & Paul Fischer, 2012. "Australia-China: Not just 40 years," Economic Roundup, Treasury, Australian Government, issue 4, pages 7-41, December.
  2. Jennifer Abel-Koch, 2013. "Who Uses Intermediaries in International Trade? Evidence from Firm-level Survey Data," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(8), pages 1041-1064, 08.
  3. Dobado-González, Rafael, 2013. "La globalización hispana del comercio y el arte en la Edad Moderna
    [The hispanic globalization of commerce and art in the early modern era]
    ," MPRA Paper 51112, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Michael Funke & Hao Yu, 2011. "The emergence and spatial distribution of Chinese seaport cities," Quantitative Macroeconomics Working Papers 21101, Hamburg University, Department of Economics.

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