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The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy

Editor-in-Chief: Jürges, Hendrik / Ludwig, Sandra

Ed. by Auriol , Emmanuelle / Brunner, Johann / Fleck, Robert / Mendola, Mariapia / Requate, Till / Zulehner, Christine / Schirle, Tammy

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French Automobiles and the Chinese Boycotts of 2008: Politics Really Does Affect Commerce

Canhui Hong1 / Wei-Min Hu2 / James E. Prieger3 / Dongming Zhu4

1Beijing University,

2National Chengchi University,

3Pepperdine University,

4Shanghai University of Finance and Economics,

Citation Information: The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy. Volume 11, Issue 1, ISSN (Online) 1935-1682, DOI: 10.2202/1935-1682.2681, May 2011

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We explore the economic impact of boycotts of French automobiles in China during the time of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Conditions were favorable for a boycott, enabling Chinese consumers to overcome the collective action problems that can prevent boycott success and other voluntary contributions to public goods. We use brand and model level data in a difference-in-difference specification to investigate the boycotts’ effects on sales. A robust pattern of large impacts emerges: sales of French automobile brands fell 25-33 percent or more. Consumers substituted mostly toward Chinese and other Asian cars. The sales of the French models did not experience similar relative sales declines in countries other than China—triple-difference estimates point toward even larger relative loss of market share in China. Our results provide evidence that commerce can be used as an effective political weapon.

Keywords: boycott; boycotting; voluntary contributions to public goods; economics of nationalism; free riding; consumer ethnocentrism; Chinese automobile industry; vehicles; cars

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