Working Paper
Structural transformation and international trade

Evidence from the China shock

How does international trade affect structural transformation in developing countries? We use data on sectoral allocation of labour and value-added in 46 developing economies over the period 1995–2017 and exploit for identification plausibly exogenous variation in manufacturing imports from China.

We find that the so-called ‘China shock’ largely slows down the transformation of low- and middle-income economies out of agriculture. In our main specification industrialization decreases by 0.49 per cent on average for each additional per cent of manufacturing imports from China. It highlights a competition effect where exposure to Chinese imports is largely detrimental to structural transformation.

These results hold across geographical regions, with a difference in sub-Saharan Africa, where international trade causes an increase in the size of the services sector.