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The growth of Chinese exports: an examination of the detailed trade data

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  • Brett D. Berger
  • Robert F. Martin

Abstract

Over the past decade, Chinese exports have boomed, increasing far faster than GDP growth. What can account for this explosion? Our paper uses finely detailed Chinese export data (8-digit HS codes) combined with U.S. trade data to explore this question. Although exchange rate policy clearly boosted the trade surplus, and the structure of the economy, e.g. abundant cheap labor, encouraged investment, these alone cannot account for the changing composition and acceleration of exports. We find that the growth in exports is most likely a product of effective Chinese industrial policy and fortuitous timing. The detailed trade data reveal that key "new" technology goods, such as cell phones, LCD screens, and laptops played a critical role. Finally, we use the data to examine the relationship between Chinese exports and global manufacturing, in particular U.S. manufacturing employment. We find that increased Chinese competition in both domestic and U.S. export markets likely lowered U.S. manufacturing employment between 2000 and 2007. Chinese policy is not, however, wholly responsible. Some job losses, such as in textile production, were no doubt the result of China's natural comparative advantages, while other U.S. job losses are attributable to relatively low investment and slow GDP growth in the United States following the 2001 recession.

Suggested Citation

  • Brett D. Berger & Robert F. Martin, 2011. "The growth of Chinese exports: an examination of the detailed trade data," International Finance Discussion Papers 1033, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgif:1033
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Willem Thorbecke & Gordon Smith, 2010. "How Would an Appreciation of the Renminbi and Other East Asian Currencies Affect China's Exports?," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 18(1), pages 95-108, February.
    2. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Peter J. Klenow, 2009. "Misallocation and Manufacturing TFP in China and India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1403-1448.
    3. Mary Amiti & Caroline Freund, 2010. "The Anatomy of China's Export Growth," NBER Chapters,in: China's Growing Role in World Trade, pages 35-56 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Yin-Wong Cheung & Menzie D. Chinn & Eiji Fujii, 2010. "China's Current Account and Exchange Rate," NBER Chapters,in: China's Growing Role in World Trade, pages 231-271 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lizardo Radhames A. & Kelly Mary H., 2014. "What Motivates China to Invest So Heavily in U.S. Treasury Securities?," Global Economy Journal, De Gruyter, vol. 14(2), pages 1-20, April.
    2. Joseph McKinney, 2014. "The Changing Global Economy: Roles Of The United States And The European Union In The Evolving Context," Economy of region, Centre for Economic Security, Institute of Economics of Ural Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, vol. 1(4), pages 57-68.
    3. Handley, Kyle & Limão, Nuno, 2013. "Policy Uncertainty, Trade and Welfare: Theory and Evidence for China and the U.S," CEPR Discussion Papers 9615, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Menzies, Gordon & Xiao, Sylvia Xiaolin & Dixon, Peter & Peng, Xiujian & Rimmer, Maureen, 2016. "Rural-led exchange rate appreciation in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 15-30.
    5. Bernard, Christophe & Calmette, Marie-Françoise & Kilkenny, Maureen & Loustalan, Catherine & Pechoux, Isabelle, 2014. "Quality in Open Markets: How Larger Leads to Less," TSE Working Papers 14-505, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).

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