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

  • Brett Berger
  • Robert F. Martin
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    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.

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    Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series International Finance Discussion Papers with number 1033.

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    Date of creation: 2011
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    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgif:1033
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    1. Yin-Wong Cheung & Menzie D. Chinn & Eiji Fujii, 2009. "China's Current Account and Exchange Rate," NBER Working Papers 14673, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. 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, 02.
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