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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. JaeBin Ahn & Amit K. Khandelwal & Shang-Jin Wei, 2010. "The Role of Intermediaries in Facilitating Trade," NBER Working Papers 15706, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. 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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  10. Brandt,Loren, 2005. "Commercialization and Agricultural Development," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521022866, October.
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  15. Andrei A. Levchenko, 2007. "Institutional Quality and International Trade," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(3), pages 791-819.
  16. Robert Koopman & Zhi Wang & Shang-Jin Wei, 2008. "How Much of Chinese Exports is Really Made In China? Assessing Domestic Value-Added When Processing Trade is Pervasive," NBER Working Papers 14109, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Wolfgang Keller & Carol H. Shiue, 2004. "Market Integration and Economic Development: A Long-run Comparison," NBER Working Papers 10300, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Jennifer Abel-Koch, . "Who uses intermediaries in international trade? Evidence from firm-level survey data," Discussion Papers 11/25, University of Nottingham, GEP.
  2. Michael Funke & Hao Yu, 2011. "The emergence and spatial distribution of Chinese seaport cities," Quantitative Macroeconomics Working Papers 21101, Hamburg University, Department of Economics.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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