Production globalization makes China’s exports cleaner

Zengkai Zhang, Jing Meng, Heran Zheng, Kunfu Zhu, Huibin Du, Dabo Guan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
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Production globalization, which is when firms expand their supply chains across national boundaries, creates an opportunity for developing countries to engage in international production networks via trade. Described as the world's factory, China specializes in assembly manufacturing mainly through processing exports. Firms use imported intermediate inputs for production and, after processing or assembly, re-export the finished products to international markets. Here, we show that the carbon efficiency of China's processing exports is greater than that of its ordinary exports. If the impact of trade heterogeneity is ignored, then the domestic emissions embodied in China's exports will be overestimated by 23.4%, and the foreign emissions embodied in China's exports will be underestimated by 29.3%. If the degree of global value chain participation, which ranges from 0 to 1, increases by 0.1, although foreign emissions embodied in China's exports would increase, the gross carbon intensity of China's exports will decrease by 11.7%.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)468-478
Number of pages11
JournalPlanet Earth
Issue number5
Early online date22 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2020


  • CO emissions
  • China
  • climate change
  • globalization
  • input-output model
  • processing exports
  • spatial heterogeneity
  • trade heterogeneity

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