Red Ink: Estimating Chinese Industrial Policy Spending in Comparative Perspective

A new report by the CSIS Economics Program and the Trustee Chair in Chinese Business and Economics quantifies the size of total industrial policy spending by China and compares it to seven other major economies: Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United States. Much of the existing research on industrial policy focuses on its effects, but there are few, if any, published studies that attempt a systematic comparison and quantification of overall industrial policy spending. The heart of the report is the careful calculation of total industrial policy spending by China and the other economies, combining estimates from multiple tools, among them direct subsidies, tax breaks, below-market credit, and state investment funds.

The report provides additional context by examining the historical trajectory of industrial policy of these economies and the evolution of industrial policy across these economies for three industries—aluminum, semiconductors, and electric vehicles. The historical and sectoral analyses point to some similarities across economies, but they also demonstrate how distinctive China has been in terms of both quantifiable spending and non-quantifiable policy tools. Finally, this report discusses several important policy implications, including greater transparency and more harmonized reporting about industrial policy spending and the potential ways in which policymakers could employ these data to more effectively limit industrial policy spending by China and other economies.

This report is made possible by generous funding from the U.S. Department of State.

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Ilaria Mazzocco
Senior Fellow, Trustee Chair in Chinese Business and Economics
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Scott Kennedy
Senior Adviser and Trustee Chair in Chinese Business and Economics