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Trade Integration, Market Size, and Industrialization: Evidence from China's National Trunk Highway System

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  • Benjamin Faber

Abstract

Large-scale transport infrastructure investments connect both large metropolitan centres of production as well as small peripheral regions. Are the resulting trade cost reductions a force for the diffusion of industrial and total economic activity to peripheral regions, or do they reinforce the concentration of production in space? This article exploits China's National Trunk Highway System as a large-scale natural experiment to contribute to our understanding of this question. The network was designed to connect provincial capitals and cities with an urban population above 500,000. As a side effect, a large number of small peripheral counties were connected to large metropolitan agglomerations. To address non-random route placements on the way between targeted city nodes, I propose an instrumental variable strategy based on the construction of least cost path spanning tree networks. The estimation results suggest that network connections have led to a reduction in GDP growth among non-targeted peripheral counties. This effect appears to be driven by a significant reduction in industrial output growth. Additional results present evidence in support of a trade-based channel in the light of falling trade costs between peripheral and metropolitan regions.

Suggested Citation

  • Benjamin Faber, 2014. "Trade Integration, Market Size, and Industrialization: Evidence from China's National Trunk Highway System," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 81(3), pages 1046-1070.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:81:y:2014:i:3:p:1046-1070
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/restud/rdu010
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