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This article incorporates foreign intellectual capital in trade channels and in foreign direct investment channels into the unified analysis framework, using 1990–2015 transnational panel data to calculate the effects of domestic, especially in coastal regions and foreign intellectual capital spillover on total factor productivity of host countries. It is found that domestic intellectual capital investment is the main source of technological progress in host countries, and from the whole sample, foreign direct investment is the main channel for cross-border overflow of intellectual capital, while import trade has no significant impact on total factor productivity. According to the grouping, only developing countries will experience intellectual capital overflow through import trade with developed countries, while foreign direct investment between various types of countries will promote growth of total factor productivity.

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