Why does China protect its labour-intensive industries more?

Sebastián Claro*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


China's tariff structure favours labour-intensive sectors, and this is at odds with traditional theory of comparative advantage. The paper argues that tariffs in China are a mechanism for protecting technology-backward domestic - especially state-owned enterprises (SOEs) from competition technology-advanced foreign enterprises producing in China. With relatively integrated labour markets and cross-firm technology differences, SOEs' subsistence is supported by subsidized credit and limited access of foreign firms' local production to tariff-protected domestic markets. Labour market integration and capital subsidies increase the relative cost of labour in SOEs compared to their foreign competitors, hurting more domestic firms in industries that use labour more intensively. Restrictions to FIEs' (foreign-invested enterprises) access to tariff-protected product markets, which protect more labour-intensive industries, compensate for the greater cost disadvantage of SOEs in labour-intensive sectors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-319
Number of pages31
JournalEconomics of Transition
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Capital subsidies
  • China
  • Tariffs
  • Technology differences
  • Trade integration


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