How much did China's emergence as “the world's factory” contribute to its national income?

Yuwan Duan*, Erik Dietzenbacher, Bart Los, Cuihong Yang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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Over time, China upgraded its capabilities to such an extent that it requires less imported materials, components, and services to maintain its central role in the global production network. Consequently, the domestic value added content of its exports has increased over time. Still, value added includes profits, which are partly earned by foreign capital owners, many of whom have set up operations in export processing zones. Such profits can be repatriated, and do not directly enhance the living standards in China. This paper will focus on the extent to which China's exporting activities have contributed to its Gross National Income (GNI), which is a better indicator of economy-wide living standards than GDP. Our results, based on input-output analysis, show that the increase in the share of Chinese GNI of a yuan of Chinese exports from 2002 to 2007 was modest, despite a marked growth of Chinese GDP contained in such a yuan of exports. From 2007 to 2017, however, the continued increase of domestic value added per yuan of exports did actually translate into considerably higher contributions of exports to GNI. Decomposition analyses show that changes in the commodity composition of China's export bundle and changes in the shares of national income in value added were the main cause of the different patterns before and after the financial crisis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101658
JournalChina Economic Review
Publication statusPublished - Oct-2021


  • China
  • Exports
  • Input-output tables
  • National income

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