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  • Why Has China's Current Account Balance Converged after the Global Financial Crisis?

    China's current account surplus declined significantly from its peak of nearly 10 percent of GDP in 2007 to less than 1 percent in 2018. The new pattern offered fresh evidence for our understanding of China's current account dynamics. In this paper, we used flow of funds data to gauge its underlying driving forces. Specifically, by employing index decomposition analysis, we decomposed the current account from the perspective of savings and investment into three sectors: the household, corporate, and government sectors. We found that the decline in China's current account ratio was first driven by cyclical factors, i.e. weak corporate saving growth induced by the economic slump in 2009 as well as the following massive corporate investment bolstered by the government stimulus plan. However, such cyclical factors quickly subsided, and the subsequent current account balance reduction was later supported by structural factors, i.e. household savings declined enduringly and the Chinese government switched to a more expansionary fiscal policy. There are three possible explanations for the structural movement: reduced precautionary saving due to higher social security coverage ratio, lower corporate profits as a result of economic slowdown, and a twin deficit due to the government's more relaxed fiscal stance. The new facts, however, were not consistent with other current account theories focusing on long‐term aspects of the saving–investment account puzzle, especially those relating to China's special demographic characteristics.

  • What Drove Housing Wealth Inequality in China?

    Although China is experiencing a deterioration in wealth distribution where housing is playing a dominant role, this issue has received scant research attention despite its importance. Combining four rounds of the China Household Finance Survey (CHFS) data, this paper measures and discusses wealth inequality in China, with a special emphasis on the contribution of housing. Our analysis reveals that housing is the largest contributor to wealth inequality, responsible for around 70 percent of total wealth inequality, and its contribution has been increasing over time. Our research efforts have focused on the housing wealth disparity, exploring its composition from alternative perspectives. The results show that housing wealth inequality has also been rising over time and an absolute majority of housing wealth inequality is due to within‐group gaps. Finally, we employ Wan's (2004) regression‐based decomposition methodology to quantify the contributions of different determinants to housing wealth disparity in China, and to demonstrate serious biases in the conventional approach that is often used to analyze housing wealth inequality.

  • Does Security of Land Operational Rights Matter for the Improvement of Agricultural Production Efficiency under the Collective Ownership in China?

    Under the “separation of three rights” policy, the impact of security of land operational rights on agricultural production efficiency has attracted much attention in recent years. Data envelopment analysis and mediation effect analysis were applied to 888 family farms run by new‐type agricultural operators from Songjiang to identify the mechanism of the effect of land operational rights security on agricultural production efficiency through long‐term investment. The results show that greater security of land operational rights generally increased agricultural production efficiency. Approximately 37.94 percent of the impact could be explained by long‐term investment. The results also indicate that significant heterogeneity exists in the effect of land operational rights security on agricultural production efficiency at various levels of the family farms’ efficiency distributions. It is suggested that government should legalize land operational rights and give them a status equal to those of households’ contractual rights and land ownership rights in China's future land tenure reform.

  • Has China's Housing Production Peaked?

    China's real estate has been a key engine of its sustained economic expansion. This paper argues, however, that even before the COVID‐19 shock, a decades‐long housing boom had given rise to severe price misalignments and regional supply–demand mismatches, making an adjustment both necessary and inevitable. We make use of newly available and updated data sources to analyze supply–demand conditions in the fast‐moving Chinese economy. The imbalances are then compared to benchmarks from other economies. We conclude that the real estate sector is quite vulnerable to a sustained aggregate growth shock, such as COVID‐19 might pose. In our baseline calibration, using input–output tables and taking account of the very large footprint of housing construction and real estate related sectors, the adjustment to a decline in housing activity can easily trim a cumulative 5–10 percent from the level of output over a period of years.

  • The Role of the Real Estate Sector in the Structural Dynamics of the Chinese Economy: An Input–Output Analysis

    Market‐oriented housing reforms and the rapid urbanization process have led to spectacular growth in the Chinese real estate sector (RES). However, the changes in the role played by this sector in the structural dynamics of the Chinese economy have not been examined sufficiently. Accordingly, we analyze the intersectoral structural changes to the Chinese RES, its linkages with the rest of the economy, and its growth sources, using four Chinese input–output tables from 2002 to 2017. We depart from existing work on the RES by using the causative matrix approach and structural decomposition analysis, and obtain three main results. First, the RES, which received little non‐RES feedback during the 2002–2007 period, has subsequently received much more substantial feedback. Second, the impact of the RES on China's economic growth stems mainly from its forward linkages. Third, the growth in the RES has been driven mainly by domestic demand expansion. Our results highlight that the Chinese RES, which plays a key role in value chains, is highly dependent on its own final demand and a fall in its demand would impede economic development. An important implication of these results is that developing the national economy by stimulating the RES would not be as effective as developing the RES through stimulating the national economy.

  • Can Trade Facilitation Prevent the Formation of Zombie Firms? Evidence from the China Railway Express

    Using data on firms listed on Chinese A‐share markets from 2009 to 2017, this paper applies the difference‐in‐difference model to test the effect of trade facilitation on preventing the formation of zombie firms. We find that the China Railway Express (CRE) significantly prevented the formation of such firms. Mechanism tests show: (i) the CRE has accelerated the speed of sales, which increased the overseas sales revenue of firms; (ii) the economies of scale and the capital accumulation effect caused by the CRE can help increase firms’ solvency and development ability. Heterogeneity analysis indicates that the effect of the CRE on preventing the formation of zombie firms is mainly reflected in non‐state‐owned firms, firms in highly competitive industries, and firms in the eastern region of China. We suggest that China should continue to promote trade facilitation by expanding the CRE and strengthening the market's dominant role in preventing the formation of zombie firms. Disadvantaged firms should seize the development opportunities brought by the CRE.

  • Can Time–Space Compression Promote Urban Economic Growth? Evidence from China's High‐speed Rail Projects

    This paper studies the effect of high‐speed rail (HSR) on urban economic growth using a panel data comprising 285 Chinese cities in 2007–2017. Combining the endogenous growth model with a difference‐in‐difference analysis, we extend the horse‐mass theory to explain how China may use HSR to avoid the so‐called middle‐income trap. The paper also examines the efficient boundaries of HSR and simultaneously studies HSR time–space compression as well as the city neighboring effects on economic growth. It is found that HSR's efficient boundaries are within the range of 200–1,200 km for provincial capitals and 50–300 km for prefecture‐level cities. HSR stimulates economic growth by approximately 0.6 percent, and the neighboring effect accounts for one‐quarter of economic growth. Three policy implications are drawn: (i) China needs to further reduce the travel times between the inland provincial cities and Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou; (ii) China should build a denser HSR network to maximize its economic impact on the vast majority of cities; (iii) China needs to develop some powerful economic growth centers in the inland areas to lead the development of their neighboring cities.

  • How the Internet Promotes China's Exports: A Firm‐level Perspective

    The development of information and communications technology (ICT), particularly the Internet, has reduced trade costs. However, it remains unclear whether these reduced costs are reflected in the “extensive margins” of firms’ exports (which refer to the probability of firms exporting) or the “intensive margins” (which refer to the value of firms’ export). To test this, we used the concepts of information cost and binary margins, an augmented trade model of firm heterogeneity, a two‐stage Heckman estimation, and data from the World Bank Enterprise Survey of Chinese firms in 2012. The results revealed that reduced trade costs from the use of ICT were positively related to extensive margins but that the connection with intensive margins was not significant. The results lead to the conclusion that reduced information costs related to a firm's exporting behavior were primarily reflected in variable trade costs. This study offers theoretical and empirical evidence for China's policies towards the Internet, which are relevant for the export of manufactured goods. The government should encourage the use of ICT to enhance firms’ export opportunities while facing current trade policy uncertainty.

  • Flying with the Dragon: Estimating Developing Countries’ Gains from China's Imports

    As a large trading nation, China competes with importing countries’ domestic and third‐country markets but also creates growth opportunities for exporters. Most studies on China trade shocks or “China shocks” focuse on the impacts of import competition on developed economies. The present paper complements research on China shocks by exploring the other side of the trade exposure to China – China as the largest importer, rather than as an exporter. We analyze the effects of export expansion into China on the local labor markets of the exporting developing countries for the years 1992 to 2018. Using detailed export and employment data, we estimate employment pattern variations in manufacturing industries with exports from other developing countries as instruments for export exposure. We find that the increase in trade exposure to China in the world economy has caused extensive job gains in manufacturing industries in developing countries that were exporters. On average, our estimations show that this trade exposure created approximately 1.5 million additional jobs from 1992 to 2018, which made an important contribution to manufacturing industries in developing countries. Our empirical analysis also shows that trade had stabilizing effects on employment in the countries in our sample generally.

  • Does Outward Foreign Direct Investment Facilitate China's Export Upgrading?

    This paper empirically investigates the impact of China's outward foreign direct investment (OFDI) on its export sophistication. Using a provincial‐level panel dataset and applying fixed effects and instrumental variable regression techniques, the study finds that, on average, OFDI has no significant impact on China's export sophistication. However, after the full sample is divided into different regions, the study finds that OFDI has a positive and significant impact on export sophistication in the developed coastal region, but no such impact is observed in the less developed inland regions. Further investigation using a panel threshold model reveals that only when GDP, per capita GDP, human capital, and the research and development intensity of a home economy reach a certain level can OFDI promote export sophistication. The findings suggest that accelerating eco nomic development and increasing absorptive capacity can facilitate the contribution of OFDI to China's export sophistication.

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