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Why Are Chinese Exports Not So Special?

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  • Shunli Yao

Abstract

Applying a commonly used index for export sophistication in a cross‐country study, Rodrik finds that the technological content of Chinese exports over the past decade has been so high that it cannot be explained simply by the economic fundamentals of a low‐income country abundant with unskilled labor. Question has been raised for the empirical robustness of the index. I am also doubtful with Rodrik's analysis but develop my argument from a different perspective. This paper briefly reviews Rodrik's methodology and identifies other factors his empirical results potentially hinge on. Based on this, it elaborates on China's unique processing trade regime, the uneven distribution of its exports across Chinese regions and the limitation of HS codes in terms of identifying differentiated products, in an attempt to show that these factors also contribute to higher estimations of China's export sophistication level. Finally, it organizes trade data to reveal the trade patterns that are indeed consistent with the country's comparative advantage.

Suggested Citation

  • Shunli Yao, 2009. "Why Are Chinese Exports Not So Special?," China & World Economy, Institute of World Economics and Politics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, vol. 17(1), pages 47-65, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:chinae:v:17:y:2009:i:1:p:47-65
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-124X.2009.01130.x
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    1. Dani Rodrik, 2006. "What's So Special about China's Exports?," China & World Economy, Institute of World Economics and Politics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, vol. 14(5), pages 1-19, September.
    2. Barry Naughton, 1996. "China's Emergence and Prospects as a Trading Nation," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 27(2), pages 273-344.
    3. Masanaga Kumakura, 2007. "What's So Special about China's Exports? A Comment," China & World Economy, Institute of World Economics and Politics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, vol. 15(5), pages 18-37, September.
    4. Hummels, David & Ishii, Jun & Yi, Kei-Mu, 2001. "The nature and growth of vertical specialization in world trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 75-96, June.
    5. Paul Krugman, 1995. "Growing World Trade: Causes and Consequences," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 26(1, 25th A), pages 327-377.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sandra Poncet & Felipe Starosta, 2013. "Export upgrading and growth in China: the prerequisite of domestic embeddedness," PSE - G-MOND WORKING PAPERS halshs-00960684, HAL.
    2. Jingjing Wang & Yan Zhang & Zeeshan Mustafa & Maurizio Canavari, 2022. "Changes in Agri-Food Export Competitiveness Based on the Sophistication Analysis: The Case of Xinjiang, China," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 14(23), pages 1-18, November.
    3. Huy Hoang Nguyen & Quang Hoan Truong, 2022. "The Nexus between Inward Foreign Direct Investment and Global Value Chains in Developing Countries: A Case Study of Viet Nam," Working Papers DP-2021-51, Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA).
    4. Andrew Martin Fischer, 2010. "Is China turning Latin? China's balancing act between power and dependence in the lead up to global crisis," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(6), pages 739-757.
    5. Faheem Ur Rehman & Ejaz Ahmad & Muhammad Asif Khan & József Popp & Judit Oláh, 2021. "Does Trade Related Sectoral Infrastructure Make Chinese Exports More Sophisticated and Diversified?," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 13(10), pages 1-21, May.
    6. Mercedes Campi & Marco Due~nas & Le Li & Huabin Wu, 2018. "Diversification, economies of scope, and exports growth of Chinese firms," Papers 1801.02681, arXiv.org, revised Jan 2018.
    7. Shunli Yao, 2010. "Is China’s Export Sophistication Really Special?," ARTNeT Policy Briefs 30, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
    8. Naima Chrid & Sami Saafi & Mohamed Chakroun, 2021. "Export Upgrading and Economic Growth: a Panel Cointegration and Causality Analysis," Journal of the Knowledge Economy, Springer;Portland International Center for Management of Engineering and Technology (PICMET), vol. 12(2), pages 811-841, June.
    9. Jarreau, Joachim & Poncet, Sandra, 2012. "Export sophistication and economic growth: Evidence from China," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(2), pages 281-292.
    10. Prema-chandra Athukorala, 2017. "China’s evolving role in global production networks: Implications for Trump’s trade war," Discussion Paper Series 34, Department of International Economic Policy, University of Freiburg, revised Jun 2017.
    11. Omar S. Dahi & Firat Demir, 2017. "South–South And North–South Economic Exchanges: Does It Matter Who Is Exchanging What And With Whom?," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 31(5), pages 1449-1486, December.
    12. Poncet, Sandra & Starosta de Waldemar, Felipe, 2013. "Export Upgrading and Growth: The Prerequisite of Domestic Embeddedness," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 104-118.
    13. Li, Yunong & Yang, Mengkai & Zhu, Lianming, 2021. "FDI, Export Sophistication, and Quality Upgrading: Evidence from China's WTO Accession," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, vol. 59(C).
    14. Prema-chandra Athukorala & John Ravenhill, 2016. "China's evolving role in global production networks: the decoupling debate revisited," Departmental Working Papers 2016-12, The Australian National University, Arndt-Corden Department of Economics.
    15. Murat Arsel & Andrew M. Fischer, 2015. "Forum 2015," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 46(4), pages 700-732, July.
    16. Faqin Lin & Ermias O. Weldemicael & Xiaosong Wang, 2017. "Export sophistication increases income in sub-Saharan Africa: evidence from 1981–2000," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 52(4), pages 1627-1649, June.
    17. Faqin Lin & Chao Zhang & Lin Wang, 2013. "Vertical Spillover Effects of Multinationals on Chinese Domestic Firms via Supplier–Customer Relationships," China & World Economy, Institute of World Economics and Politics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, vol. 21(6), pages 37-57, November.
    18. Saafi Sami & Nouira Ridha, 2018. "Re-Examining the Relationship Between Export Upgrading and Economic Growth: Is there a Threshold Effect?," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 49(4), pages 437-454.
    19. Fischer, A.M., 2010. "Is China turning Latin?," ISS Working Papers - General Series 19431, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
    20. Cyrielle Gaglio, 2015. "Measuring Country Competitiveness: A Survey of Exporting-based Indexes," GREDEG Working Papers 2015-42, Groupe de REcherche en Droit, Economie, Gestion (GREDEG CNRS), Université Côte d'Azur, France.
    21. Song Zhang & Chunlai Chen, 2020. "Does Outward Foreign Direct Investment Facilitate China's Export Upgrading?," China & World Economy, Institute of World Economics and Politics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, vol. 28(5), pages 64-89, September.
    22. Mohamed Chakroun & Naima Chrid & Sami Saafi, 2021. "Does export upgrading really matter to economic growth? Evidence from panel data for high‐, middle‐ and low‐income countries," International Journal of Finance & Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(4), pages 5584-5609, October.
    23. Yan Du & Yi Lu, 2018. "The Great Opening up and the Roadmap for the Future: The Story of China's International Trade," China & World Economy, Institute of World Economics and Politics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, vol. 26(2), pages 68-93, March.

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