The absorptive capacity of firms developed through R&D promotes learning by exporting. In this paper, we estimate the instantaneous and long-run productivity effects of exporting on the universe of Chinese manufacturing firms. We find that exporting has very different productivity effects for firms with different pre-export R&D status. It has large and lasting productivity effects for firms with pre-export R&D, while it has little effects for firms without pre-export R&D. Furthermore, the effect of exporting increases with the number of years of pre-export R&D investment.