IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/aea/jecper/v26y2012i4p103-24.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Understanding China's Growth: Past, Present, and Future

Author

Listed:
  • Xiaodong Zhu

Abstract

The pace and scale of China's economic transformation have no historical precedent. In 1978, China was one of the poorest countries in the world. The real per capita GDP in China was only one-fortieth of the U.S. level and one-tenth the Brazilian level. Since then, China's real per capita GDP has grown at an average rate exceeding 8 percent per year. As a result, China's real per capita GDP is now almost one-fifth the U.S. level and at the same level as Brazil. This rapid and sustained improvement in average living standard has occurred in a country with more than 20 percent of the world’s population so that China is now the second-largest economy in the world. I will begin by discussing briefly China's historical growth performance from 1800 to 1950. I then present growth accounting results for the period from 1952 to 1978 and the period since 1978, decomposing the sources of growth into capital deepening, labor deepening, and productivity growth. But the main focus of this paper will be to examine the sources of growth since 1978, the year when China started economic reform. Perhaps surprisingly, given China's well-documented sky-high rates of saving and investment, I will argue that China’s rapid growth over the last three decades has been driven by productivity growth rather than by capital investment. I also examine the contributions of sector-level productivity growth, and of resource reallocation across sectors and across firms within a sector, to aggregate productivity growth. Overall, gradual and persistent institutional change and policy reforms that have reduced distortions and improved economic incentives are the main reasons for the productivity growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Xiaodong Zhu, 2012. "Understanding China's Growth: Past, Present, and Future," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 26(4), pages 103-124, Fall.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:26:y:2012:i:4:p:103-24
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.26.4.103
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.26.4.103
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output Per Worker than Others?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(1), pages 83-116.
    2. Loren Brandt & Trevor Tombe & Xiadong Zhu, 2013. "Factor Market Distortions Across Time, Space, and Sectors in China," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 16(1), pages 39-58, January.
    3. Restuccia, Diego & Yang, Dennis Tao & Zhu, Xiaodong, 2008. "Agriculture and aggregate productivity: A quantitative cross-country analysis," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(2), pages 234-250, March.
    4. Dong He & Wenlang Zhang & Gaofeng Han & Tommy Wu, 2014. "Productivity Growth of the Nontradable Sectors in China," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 18(4), pages 655-666, November.
    5. Gary Jefferson & Thomas Rawski & Yifan Zhang, 2008. "Productivity growth and convergence across China's industrial economy," Journal of Chinese Economic and Business Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(2), pages 121-140.
    6. Brandt, Loren & Van Biesebroeck, Johannes & Zhang, Yifan, 2012. "Creative accounting or creative destruction? Firm-level productivity growth in Chinese manufacturing," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(2), pages 339-351.
    7. Timothy J. Kehoe & Kim J. Ruhl, 2010. "Why Have Economic Reforms in Mexico Not Generated Growth?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(4), pages 1005-1027, December.
    8. Songqing Jin & Hengyun Ma & Jikun Huang & Ruifa Hu & Scott Rozelle, 2010. "Productivity, efficiency and technical change: measuring the performance of China’s transforming agriculture," Journal of Productivity Analysis, Springer, vol. 33(3), pages 191-207, June.
    9. 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.
    10. Edward C. Prescott & Stephen L. Parente, 1999. "Monopoly Rights: A Barrier to Riches," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1216-1233, December.
    11. Parente, Stephen L & Prescott, Edward C, 1994. "Barriers to Technology Adoption and Development," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(2), pages 298-321, April.
    12. Li, Wei, 1997. "The Impact of Economic Reform on the Performance of Chinese State Enterprises, 1980-1989," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(5), pages 1080-1106, October.
    13. Jefferson, Gary H. & Rawski, Thomas G. & Zheng, Yuxin, 1996. "Chinese Industrial Productivity: Trends, Measurement Issues, and Recent Developments," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 146-180, October.
    14. Timothy J. Kehoe & Edward C. Prescott, 2002. "Great Depressions of the Twentieth Century," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 5(1), pages 1-18, January.
    15. Zheng (Michael) Song & Guiying (Laura) Wu, 2013. "A Structural Estimation on Capital Market Distortions in Chinese Manufacturing," Economic Growth Centre Working Paper Series 1306, Nanyang Technological University, School of Social Sciences, Economic Growth Centre.
    16. Barry Bosworth & Susan M. Collins, 2008. "Accounting for Growth: Comparing China and India," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(1), pages 45-66, Winter.
    17. Timothy J. Kehoe & Edward C. Prescott, 2007. "Great depressions of the twentieth century," Monograph, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, number 2007gdott.
    18. Alwyn Young, 2003. "Gold into Base Metals: Productivity Growth in the People's Republic of China during the Reform Period," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(6), pages 1220-1261, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Ye, Longfeng & Robertson, Peter E., 2019. "Hitting the Great Wall: Structural change and China's growth slowdown," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 1-1.
    2. Jose Asturias & Sewon Hur & Timothy J. Kehoe & Kim J. Ruhl, 2015. "Firm Entry and Exit and Aggregate Growth," Working Papers 15-07, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
    3. Timothy Kehoe & Sewon Hur & Kim Ruhl & Jose Asturias, 2015. "The Interaction of Entry Barriers and Financial Frictions in Growth," 2015 Meeting Papers 792, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    4. Brandt, Loren & Van Biesebroeck, Johannes & Zhang, Yifan, 2012. "Creative accounting or creative destruction? Firm-level productivity growth in Chinese manufacturing," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(2), pages 339-351.
    5. Diego Restuccia & Richard Rogerson, 2013. "Misallocation and productivity," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 16(1), pages 1-10, January.
    6. Ferreira, Pedro Cavalcanti & Pessôa, Samuel de Abreu & Veloso, Fernando A., 2010. "The evolution of TFP in Latin America: high productivity when distortions were high?," FGV EPGE Economics Working Papers (Ensaios Economicos da EPGE) 699, EPGE Brazilian School of Economics and Finance - FGV EPGE (Brazil).
    7. Boeing, Philipp & Mueller, Elisabeth & Sandner, Philipp, 2016. "China's R&D explosion—Analyzing productivity effects across ownership types and over time," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 159-176.
    8. Xi Li & Xuewen Liu & Yong Wang, 2015. "A Model of China's State Capitalism," HKUST IEMS Working Paper Series 2015-12, HKUST Institute for Emerging Market Studies, revised Feb 2015.
    9. Chen, Shiyi & Jefferson, Gary H. & Zhang, Jun, 2011. "Structural change, productivity growth and industrial transformation in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 133-150, March.
    10. Simon Alder & Lin Shao & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2016. "Economic reforms and industrial policy in a panel of Chinese cities," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 21(4), pages 305-349, December.
    11. Peiwen Bai & Wenli Cheng, 2016. "Labour misallocation in China: 1980--2010," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 48(25), pages 2321-2332, May.
    12. Lei Fang, 2017. "Entry Barriers, Competition, And Technology Adoption," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 55(2), pages 794-805, April.
    13. Lee, Soohyung & Malin, Benjamin A., 2013. "Education's role in China's structural transformation," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 101(C), pages 148-166.
    14. Murat Ungor, 2017. "Productivity Growth and Labor Reallocation: Latin America versus East Asia," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 24, pages 25-42, March.
    15. Tian, Xu & Yu, Xiaohua, 2012. "The Enigmas of TFP in China: A meta-analysis," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 396-414.
    16. Du, Jun & Liu, Xiaoxuan & Zhou, Ying, 2014. "State advances and private retreats? — Evidence of aggregate productivity decomposition in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 459-474.
    17. Veloso, Fernando A. & Ferreira, Pedro Cavalcanti & Pessôa, Samuel de Abreu, 2006. "The evolution of TFP in Latin America," FGV EPGE Economics Working Papers (Ensaios Economicos da EPGE) 620, EPGE Brazilian School of Economics and Finance - FGV EPGE (Brazil).
    18. Daniela Costa & Timothy J. Kehoe & Gajen Raveendranathan, 2016. "The Stages of Economic Growth Revisited: Part 1: A General Framework and Taking Off into Growth," Economic Policy Paper 16-5, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    19. Juan Blyde & Christian Daude & Eduardo Fernández-Arias, 2010. "Output collapses and productivity destruction," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 146(2), pages 359-387, June.
    20. Ricardo Lagos, 2006. "A Model of TFP," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(4), pages 983-1007.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E23 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Production
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • N15 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Asia including Middle East
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence
    • P24 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - National Income, Product, and Expenditure; Money; Inflation

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:26:y:2012:i:4:p:103-24. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/aeaaaea.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Michael P. Albert (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/aeaaaea.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.