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What Accounts for the Rising Sophistication of China's Exports?

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  • Zhi Wang
  • Shang-Jin Wei

Abstract

Chinese exports have become increasingly sophisticated. This has generated anxiety in developed countries as competitive pressure may increasingly be felt outside labor-intensive industries. Using product-level data on exports from different cities within China, this paper investigates the contributing factors to China's rising export sophistication. Somewhat surprisingly, neither processing trade nor foreign invested firms are found to play an important role in generating the increased overlap between China's export structure and that of high-income countries. Instead, improvement in human capital and government policies in the form of tax-favored high-tech zones appear to be the key to the country's evolving export structure. On the other hand, processing trade, foreign invested firms, and government-sponsored high-tech zones all have contributed significantly to raising the unit values of Chinese exports within a given product category.

Suggested Citation

  • Zhi Wang & Shang-Jin Wei, 2008. "What Accounts for the Rising Sophistication of China's Exports?," NBER Working Papers 13771, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13771
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Raymond Fisman & Peter Moustakerski & Shang-Jin Wei, 2008. "Outsourcing Tariff Evasion: A New Explanation for Entrepôt Trade," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(3), pages 587-592, August.
    2. Lionel Fontagné & Guillaume Gaulier & Soledad Zignago, 2008. "Specialization across varieties and North-South competition," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 23, pages 51-91, January.
    3. Raymond Fisman & Shang-Jin Wei, 2004. "Tax Rates and Tax Evasion: Evidence from "Missing Imports" in China," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(2), pages 471-500, April.
    4. Ricardo Hausmann & Jason Hwang & Dani Rodrik, 2007. "What you export matters," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 12(1), pages 1-25, March.
    5. Dani Rodrik, 2006. "What's So Special about China's Exports?," China & World Economy, Institute of World Economics and Politics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, vol. 14(5), pages 1-19.
    6. Peter K. Schott, 2004. "Across-Product Versus Within-Product Specialization in International Trade," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(2), pages 647-678.
    7. Hallak, Juan Carlos, 2006. "Product quality and the direction of trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 238-265, January.
    8. Juan Carlos Hallak & Peter K. Schott, 2011. "Estimating Cross-Country Differences in Product Quality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(1), pages 417-474.
    9. Peter K. Schott, 2008. "The relative sophistication of Chinese exports," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 23, pages 5-49, January.
    10. Finger, J M & Kreinin, M E, 1979. "A Measure of 'Export Similarity' and Its Possible Uses," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 89(356), pages 905-912, December.
    11. David Hummels & Peter J. Klenow, 2005. "The Variety and Quality of a Nation's Exports," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 704-723, June.
    12. Galina Hale & Cheryl Long, 2006. "What Determines Technological Spillovers of Foreign Direct Investment: Evidence from China," Working Papers 934, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
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    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development

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