Working Paper Series

ICE WP#2024-002

Illuminating the Effects of the US-China Tariff War on China's Economy

May 24, 2024

by Davin Chor and Bingjing Li

Journal of International Economics: Forthcoming


This paper studies the impact of the US-China tariff war on China, using high-frequency night lights data and grid-level measures of tariff exposure. Exploiting within-grid variation over time and controlling extensively for grid-specific contemporaneous trends, we find that each one-percentage-point increase in exposure to the US tariffs was associated with a 0.59% reduction in night-time luminosity. This impact was highly skewed across locations: Grids with negligible direct exposure to the US tariffs accounted for 70% of China’s population. But the tail 2.5% of China’s population with the highest exposure saw an implied 2.52% (1.62%) decrease in income per capita (manufacturing employment) relative to unaffected grids. These effects were moreover concentrated in locations with a high commuting openness. By contrast, we do not find significant effects from China’s retaliatory tariffs, and offer evidence of several channels through which the impact on imported inputs was mitigated. In a parallel analysis at the prefecture level, we confirm that the US tariffs had discernible negative aggregate consequences.


本文利用高频夜间灯光和地理单元格受关税影响程度数据,研究了美中贸易战对中国的影响。在广泛控制地理单元格内特定的同期趋势后观察单元格内夜间灯光随时间变化的差异,我们发现每增加1个百分点的受美国关税影响程度,夜间灯光亮度就会降低0.59%。这种影响在不同地区间高度不均衡:占中国人口的70%的单元格几乎没有直接受到美国关税影响。但与未受影响的地区相比,我们推测受影响最大的 2.5%中国人口的人均收入下降了 2.52%,制造业就业下降1.62%。这些影响集中在人口流动性和贸易开放程度高的地区。相比之下,我们没有发现中国的反制性关税对中国经济有显著影响,并提供了几个渠道的证据证明反制性关税对进口原料的影响得到了缓解。在县区级的平行分析中,我们确认了美国关税对中国总体经济造成了明显的负面影响。

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