Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2019, Vol. 74 ›› Issue (6): 1097-1111.doi: 10.11821/dlxb201906003

• Urban and Regional Development • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Evolution of urban export product in China

ZHOU Yi1,HE Canfei2()   

  1. 1. School of Economics, Sichuan University, Chengdu 610065, China
    2. College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing100871, China
  • Received:2018-01-08 Revised:2018-03-07 Online:2019-06-25 Published:2019-06-20
  • Contact: HE Canfei
  • Supported by:
    Natural Science Foundation of China(41731278);Natural Science Foundation of China(41801117);Natural Science Foundation of China(41425001);Humanity and Social Science Foundation of Ministry of Education of China(18YJC790240)


Regional development is the process of continuous evolution, transformation and upgrading of regional industries. Evolutionary economic geography emphasizes the process of endogenous development, but it ignores the path breaking brought by exogenous and institutional factors. Based on a firm-product level dataset on Chinese exports during 2000-2013, this paper examines the evolution pattern of China's exports space by aggregating firm-product level data to city-product level ones. This paper adopt the relatedness indicator, which is based on the co-occurrence of products in the export basket of countries. This paper adjusts and defines the indicator as the co-occurrence of two products at the firm level. Based on technological relatedness, this paper develops product space of China's exports, and explores whether the evolution of China's urban export is path dependence, and how those cities break existing path-dependent trajectories and create a new path. The conclusions of the study show that, firstly, the evolution of China's urban export products is affected by their original product structure and is characterized by the path dependence. Secondly, this research points out that the seemingly dominant path-dependent development trajectories can be broken through continuously improving external linkages, creating friendly environment of knowledge flow, and fostering an open-minded social and institutional context. Besides, the effects of these sets of variables vary across cities and industries. Specifically, technological relatedness played a more important role in the eastern and central China. Compared with labor intensive industries, technology intensive ones are more likely to depend on existing product structure. This paper points out that extra-regional linkages, related knowledge spillovers and open-minded institutional context have the potential to bring in and/or generate fresh know-how, which may enable cities to develop in a path-breaking way.

Key words: evolutionary economic geography, product space, path dependence, path-breaking, China