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The People’s Republic of China’s High-Tech Exports : Myth and Reality


  • Yuqing Xing

    (Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI))


Trade statistics portray the People's Republic of China (PRC) as the largest exporter of high-tech products. In this paper I will argue that the PRC’s leading position in high-tech exports is a myth created by outdated trade statistics which are inconsistent with trade based on global supply chains. Current trade statistics mistakenly credit entire values of assembled high-tech products to the PRC, thus greatly inflating its exports. In 2009, the PRC’s value-added accounted for only about 3% of the total value attributed to its exports of iPhones and laptop personal computers. Moreover, 82% of the PRC’s high-tech exports were produced by foreign-invested firms, in particular Taipei,China-owned companies. In this paper I will argue that a value-added-based approach should be adopted to accurately measure high-tech exports. Furthermore, if assembly is the only source of the value-added generated by PRC workers, in terms of technological contribution these assembled high-tech exports are no different from labor-intensive products, and so they should be excluded from the high-tech classification.

Suggested Citation

  • Yuqing Xing, 2012. "The People’s Republic of China’s High-Tech Exports : Myth and Reality," Macroeconomics Working Papers 23320, East Asian Bureau of Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:eab:macroe:23320

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    11. repec:hrv:faseco:34721963 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Chen, Xi & Funke, Michael, 2013. "The dynamics of catch-up and skill and technology upgrading in China," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 38(PB), pages 465-480.
    2. Tang, Yingkai & Zhang, Kevin H., 2016. "Absorptive capacity and benefits from FDI: Evidence from Chinese manufactured exports," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 423-429.

    More about this item


    High-tech exports; PRC; global supply chains; assembled high-tech products; trade statistics;

    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • F2 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business

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