Between 1987 and 1996 Chinese exports increased by an average of 14% each year. During this decade, export growth became a crucial determinant of overall economic growth. However, as a consequence of the East Asian financial crises, Chinese export growth slowed, threatening the successful implementation of plans to restructure the domestic Chinese economy. This paper traces the reasons for the rapid growth and subsequent slowing of Chinese exports, and asks whether the strategy provides a solid basis for the long term development of the Chinese economy. In particular, the paper focuses on the role and significance of the processing trade in boosting Chinese exports. The high proportion of imported components in processed exports questions whether China is really benefiting as much from export growth as aggregate trade figures seem to suggest
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