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Knowledge spillovers, absorptive capacity and total factor productivity in China’s manufacturing firms


  • Hailin Liao
  • Xiaohui Liu
  • Chengang Wang


Applying the stochastic frontier framework, this study explores the diffusion and absorption of technological knowledge in China’s manufacturing firms, based on a panel of more than 10,000 local and foreign-invested firms over the period 1998--2001. Our empirical approach allows us to distinguish between technological progress (TP) and technical efficiency (TE) in analysing whether R&D, exports and the presence of foreign direct investment simultaneously enhance TP through knowledge spillovers in a single framework and whether different types of domestic absorptive capacity moderate external knowledge spillovers in relation to TE. The results show that there are positive inter-industry productivity spillovers from R&D and foreign presence, whereas evidence of intra-industry productivity spillovers from FDI to Chinese firms is less robust. We find evidence that absorptive capacity is one of the key determinants to quantitatively explain intra-industry differences in productivity of local Chinese firms. The findings have important policy implications.

Suggested Citation

  • Hailin Liao & Xiaohui Liu & Chengang Wang, 2012. "Knowledge spillovers, absorptive capacity and total factor productivity in China’s manufacturing firms," International Review of Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 26(4), pages 533-547, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:irapec:v:26:y:2012:i:4:p:533-547
    DOI: 10.1080/02692171.2011.619970

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Katiuscia Vaccarini, 2014. "Psychic distance and FDI: the case of China," Working Papers 1403, c.MET-05 - Centro Interuniversitario di Economia Applicata alle Politiche per L'industria, lo Sviluppo locale e l'Internazionalizzazione.
    2. Sai Ding & Alessandra Guariglia & Richard Harris, 2016. "The determinants of productivity in Chinese large and medium-sized industrial firms, 1998–2007," Journal of Productivity Analysis, Springer, vol. 45(2), pages 131-155, April.
    3. Vicente German-Soto & Luis Gutiérrez Flores, 2015. "A Standardized Coefficients Model to Analyze the Regional Patents Activity: Evidence from the Mexican States," Journal of the Knowledge Economy, Springer;Portland International Center for Management of Engineering and Technology (PICMET), vol. 6(1), pages 72-89, March.
    4. repec:spr:envpol:v:19:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s10018-016-0172-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Nair, Smitha R. & Demirbag, Mehmet & Mellahi, Kamel, 2016. "Reverse knowledge transfer in emerging market multinationals: The Indian context," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 152-164.

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