Written by World Bank
Developed by The World Bank
26 September 2019
This paper uses the dramatic expansion of access to the Internet in China to analyze the impact of the Internet on firm performance. The paper combines firm-level production data with province-level information on Internet penetration to examine how the rollout of the Internet across Chinese provinces between 1999 and 2007 influenced firms' export behavior. The econometric strategy enables identifying the impact of the Internet on firm performance in China. The paper shows that the rollout of the Internet boosted manufacturing exports of firms in China, even before the rise of major e-commerce platforms in the country such as Alibaba. The paper takes a closer look at why, focusing on three questions: what aspects of firm performance were affected, what types of firm communication were facilitated, and what dimensions of the new communication medium were relevant? The paper finds that the Internet not only enhanced trade, but also improved overall firm performance.