In this article we focus on the role of exports in Chinese economic development in the era of WTO accession. We address a series of different, although connected, questions. First, do Chinese exporting and non-exporting firms differ in terms of their productivity performance and paid wages? Second, to what extent exporting and non-exporting firms have contributed to the process of convergence and catching-up? Third, does the productivity-wage pass-through differ between exporting and non-exporting firms? Overall our findings downplay the role of exporting firms as both carriers of labour productivity and wage growth for the Chinese economy. In this respect, “gains from catching-up” outweigh any “gain from trade”.