Imitating to export

44 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2014 Last revised: 13 Nov 2019

See all articles by Xiaoyang Li

Xiaoyang Li

Deakin University

Antung Anthony Liu

Resources for the Future; Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business

Date Written: December 8, 2015


We document the existence of Chinese imitation of foreign firms on a large scale. China's export processing zones (EPZs) attract foreign companies to set up export processing operations. Chinese firms quickly imitate these companies in both export and import patterns. Exports of the products shipped from EPZs increase throughout the province, with the largest gains in the city containing the EPZ, and the next largest in the cities adjacent to the EPZ. Chinese companies also import the same equipment imported by companies in EPZs, suggesting that they imitate foreign technology. Furthermore, we find that firms that imitate EPZs leapfrog non-imitating firms in productivity. We conclude that a key ingredient of China's success in trade has been its ability to attract foreign firms and subsequently imitate them.

Keywords: Export processing zones, export and import, imitate

JEL Classification: F1, F2, O2

Suggested Citation

Li, Xiaoyang and Liu, Antung Anthony, Imitating to export (December 8, 2015). China Economic Review, Vol. 53, 2019, Available at SSRN: or

Xiaoyang Li (Contact Author)

Deakin University ( email )

70 Elgar Rd
Burwood, Victoria 3125

Antung Anthony Liu

Resources for the Future ( email )

1616 P Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business ( email )

Oriental Plaza, Tower E3
One East Chang An Avenue
Beijing, 100738

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