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The Role of Law in China's Economic Development

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Author Info

  • Donald Clarke
  • Peter Murrell

    ()
    (Department of Economics, University of Maryland)

  • Susan Whiting

Abstract

This paper surveys China's legal system in the economic reform era. We analyze the role of law in the economy, assessing whether China's formal legal system contributed to those expectations of stable and predictable rights of property and contract that are prerequisites for growth. The paper begins by detailing legal developments. The relationship between legal and economic development was bidirectional - a coevolutionary process. We then examine three spheres of activity - property rights, agreements to trade, and corporate governance - asking whether law plays an important role, how that role has changed, and what the current problems are. Common themes arise. First, there have been profound changes, with law playing an increasingly important role. Second, formal legal institutions have not made a critical contribution to China's remarkable economic success. This latter conclusion leaves open the question of which mechanisms generated the necessary expectations of reasonable returns from decentralized economic activity. We briefly reflect on mechanisms other than law that might have produced such expectations, for example, the role of local Communist Party officials. However, lack of empirical information suggests this is a topic for future research.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Maryland, Department of Economics in its series Electronic Working Papers with number 06-002.

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Length: 71 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:umd:umdeco:06-002

Contact details of provider:
Postal: Department of Economics, University of Maryland, Tydings Hall, College Park, MD 20742
Web page: http://www.econ.umd.edu/

Order Information:
Postal: Ms. Elizabeth Martinez, Department of Economics, University of Maryland, Tydings Hall, College Park, MD 20742
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Related research

Keywords: China; institutions; law; property rights; contracts; corporate governance;

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Cited by:
  1. Wu, W. & Johan, S.A. & Rui, O.M., 2012. "Institutional investors, political connections and incidence of corporate fraud," Discussion Paper 2012-042, Tilburg University, Tilburg Law and Economic Center.
  2. Chenggang Xu, 2011. "The Fundamental Institutions of China's Reforms and Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(4), pages 1076-1151, December.
  3. L. Alan Winters & Shahid Yusuf, 2007. "Dancing with the Giants: China, India, and the Global Economy," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 6632, February.

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