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Do Exporting Firms in the People’s Republic of China Innovate?


  • Wignaraja, Ganeshan

    (Asian Development Bank Institute)


This paper assesses factors driving firm-level export performance in Asia’s super exporter—The People’s Republic of China (PRC). While early studies suggested that innovation was important, there has been little research on opening up the black box of technology at firm-level in the PRC, the author undertakes econometric analysis of innovation, learning, and exporting in automobiles and electronics firms in the PRC using a large-scale dataset to identify the most appropriate innovation proxy. Drawing on recent literature on innovation and learning in developing countries, it tests two alternative proxies: (i) a technology index (TI) to capture a variety of minor activities involved in using imported technologies efficiently; and (ii) the research and development (R&D)-to-sales ratio, which represents formal technological efforts to create new products and processes, often at world frontiers.

Suggested Citation

  • Wignaraja, Ganeshan, 2012. "Do Exporting Firms in the People’s Republic of China Innovate?," ADBI Working Papers 365, Asian Development Bank Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:ris:adbiwp:0365

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ganeshan Wignaraja, 2002. "Firm Size, Technological Capabilities and Market-oriented Policies in Mauritius," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 30(1), pages 87-104.
    2. Dijk, van M., 2001. "The Determinants of Export Performance in Developing Countries: The Case of Indonesian Manufacturing," Working Papers 02.01, Eindhoven Center for Innovation Studies.
    3. Motohashi, Kazuyuki & Yuan, Yuan, 2010. "Productivity impact of technology spillover from multinationals to local firms: Comparing China's automobile and electronics industries," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(6), pages 790-798, July.
    4. Grossman, Gene M. & Helpman, Elhanan, 1995. "Technology and trade," Handbook of International Economics,in: G. M. Grossman & K. Rogoff (ed.), Handbook of International Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 25, pages 1279-1337 Elsevier.
    5. Elhanan Helpman & Marc J. Melitz & Stephen R. Yeaple, 2004. "Export Versus FDI with Heterogeneous Firms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 300-316, March.
    6. Jun Du & Sourafel Girma, 2007. "Finance and Firm Export in China," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(1), pages 37-54, February.
    7. Lin,Justin Yifu, 2009. "Economic Development and Transition," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521514521, March.
    8. Rasiah, Rajah, 2003. "Foreign ownership, technology and electronics exports from Malaysia and Thailand," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(5), pages 785-811, October.
    9. 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.
    10. Correa, Paulo & Dayoub, Mariam & Francisco, Manuela, 2007. "Identifying supply-side constraints to export performance in Ecuador : an exercise with Investment Climate Survey data," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4179, The World Bank.
    11. Richard Nelson, 2008. "Economic Development from the Perspective of Evolutionary Economic Theory," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(1), pages 9-21.
    12. Brown, Flor & Domínguez Villalobos, Lilia, 2004. "Measuring technological capabilities in Mexican industry," Revista CEPAL, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL), August.
    13. Motohashi, Kazuyuki & Yun, Xiao, 2007. "China's innovation system reform and growing industry and science linkages," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(8), pages 1251-1260, October.
    14. Wignaraja, Ganeshan, 2008. "Foreign ownership, technological capabilities and clothing exports in Sri Lanka," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 29-39, February.
    15. Marc J. Melitz, 2003. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(6), pages 1695-1725, November.
    16. Herbert Glejser & Alexis Jacquemin & Jean Petit, 1980. "Exports in an Imperfect Competition Framework: An Analysis of 1,446 Exporters," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 94(3), pages 507-524.
    17. Metcalfe, J S, 1994. "Evolutionary Economics and Technology Policy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(425), pages 931-944, July.
    18. Iammarino, Simona & Padilla-Pérez, Ramon & von Tunzelmann, Nick, 2008. "Technological Capabilities and Global-Local Interactions: The Electronics Industry in Two Mexican Regions," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(10), pages 1980-2003, October.
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    More about this item


    prc; innovation; automobiles; electronics;

    JEL classification:

    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business
    • L63 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Microelectronics; Computers; Communications Equipment
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D
    • O57 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Comparative Studies of Countries

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