Relocation or reallocation: Impacts of differentiated energy saving regulation on manufacturing industries in China

Junming Zhu*, Matthias Ruth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Unilateral tightening of environmental regulation is often considered to cause regulated industries to locate at places with lower compliance cost. The pollution haven effect may be offset, however, when endogenous technical change and factor reallocation can compensate increased compliance cost. This paper identifies the overall effects on industrial activities from provincially differentiated regulation of energy saving in China. Econometric specifications take into account the workings of different policy instruments, quantity and revenue-based measurement of output, policy-induced price effects, and alternative measurement of productivity and competitiveness. Results indicate that an introduction of energy-saving policies leads to loss of output and productivity in energy-intensive industries initially, which is passed on to other industries via markets of capital and energy-intensive goods. Under higher regulation, energy-intensive industries become more capital-intensive, regain productivity more quickly, and increase export rates; other industries become more labor-intensive, recover more slowly, and decrease export rates. Through capital investment and factor reallocation, China's policy has been effective in improving industrial energy efficiency without causing competitive loss or carbon leakage. An incentive-based instrument of differential electricity prices leads to similar effects on industries, implying the possibility for more efficient policy-making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-133
Number of pages15
JournalEcological Economics
Early online date14 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015


  • Carbon leakage
  • China
  • Energy saving policy
  • Industrial energy efficiency
  • Pollution haven hypothesis

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