How big is China’s digital economy?

HKUST IEMS Working Papers No. 2018-56


Alicia Garcia-Herrero, Jianwei Xu

This paper reviews international measures of the digital economy with those developed by Chinese officials and private sources. Given their lack of comparability, we use China’s input and output and census data to come up with an internationally comparable estimate of China’s size of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector (the core of digital economy), both in terms of value added and employment. Based on the latest available statistics, our measurements indicate that China’s digital economy is not bigger relative to the size of the Chinese economy than the OECD average, especially in terms of ICT employment. This finding, which might look striking based on the current perception of China’s digital economy, masks large differences across regions (with Beijing, Guangdong and Shanghai ahead of the OECD average).

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