Winning essay

Xiao Ma's paper looks into the link between trade openness and education policy. He shows that China's education policy — and in particular the dramatic expansion of college enrolment since 1999 — led to a considerable increase in manufacturing firms’ innovation, especially among exporting firms, once these students entered the job market.

He calculates that the influx of college-educated workers accounts for 72 per cent of the increases in China’s manufacturing research and development (R&D) intensity between 2003 and 2018 and also triggered a sizable portion of export skill upgrading. The paper also shows that without trade openness, the impact of this education policy change on China’s innovation and production would have been 10-30 per cent lower.

In the view of the Selection Panel, Xiao Ma's paper tackles a topic of paramount importance. It also increases understanding of the policies that can lead to more technologically sophisticated exports, as has been observed in China since it joined the WTO.

Xiao Ma is a Chinese national. He received his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California, San Diego in 2021. He is currently Assistant Professor of Economics at Peking University HSBC Business School.

The winning paper is available here.


Xiao Ma was presented with his prize at the award ceremony by the WTO's Chief Economist, Ralph Ossa, who was the first recipient of the Essay Award in 2009.

Selection panel

The Selection Panel comprised Beata Javorcik (Professor of Economics, University of Oxford), Ralph Ossa (Director, Economic Research and Statistics Division, WTO), Robert Staiger (Professor of Economics, Dartmouth University), and Alberto Trejos (Professor of Economics, INCAE Business School). Roberta Piermartini (Chief of Section, Economic Research and Statistics Division, WTO) coordinated the work of the Selection Panel.




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