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The transition from imitation to innovation: An enquiry into China's evolving institutions and firm capabilities

Listed author(s):
  • Dobson, Wendy
  • Safarian, A.E.

How is the Chinese economy making the transition from imitation to innovation as the source of sustained long-term growth? We address this question using the evolutionary approach to growth in which institutions support technical advance and enterprises develop capabilities to learn and innovate. Growth is seen as a series of disequilibria in which obstacles to innovation such as outdated institutions and weak incentive systems can cause growth to slow. We review existing literatures on institutions and firm behavior in China and compare these findings with those of our survey of Chinese firms in 2006. Industry and firm studies in the literature show how productivity is rising because of firm entry and exit rather than the adoption of new technologies. A striking feature both of the studies in the literature and our survey is the increasing competitive pressures on firms that encourage learning. Our survey of privately owned small and medium enterprises in five high-tech industries in Zhejiang province found a market-based innovation system and evidence of much process and some product innovations. These enterprises respond to growing product competition and demanding customers with intensive internal learning, investment in R&D and a variety of international and research linkages.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Asian Economics.

Volume (Year): 19 (2008)
Issue (Month): 4 (August)
Pages: 301-311

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Handle: RePEc:eee:asieco:v:19:y:2008:i:4:p:301-311
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/asieco

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  1. Diego Puga & Daniel Trefler, 2005. "Wake Up and Smell the Ginseng: The Rise of Incremental Innovation in Low-Wage Countries," NBER Working Papers 11571, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Gary Jefferson & Bai Huamao & Guan Xiaojing & Yu Xiaoyun, 2006. "R&D Performance in Chinese industry," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(4-5), pages 345-366.
  3. Paul Romer, 1989. "Endogenous Technological Change," NBER Working Papers 3210, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Jefferson, Gary & Hu, Albert G. Z. & Guan, Xiaojing & Yu, Xiaoyun, 2003. "Ownership, performance, and innovation in China's large- and medium-size industrial enterprise sector," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 89-113.
  5. Alwyn Young, 2000. "The Razor's Edge: Distortions and Incremental Reform in the People's Republic of China," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1091-1135.
  6. Lee Branstetter & Nicholas Lardy, 2006. "China's Embrace of Globalization," NBER Working Papers 12373, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Xiaowen Tian, 2007. "Accounting for sources of FDI technology spillovers: evidence from China," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 38(1), pages 147-159, January.
  8. Gary H. Jefferson & Albert G. Z. Hu & Jian Su, 2006. "The Sources and Sustainability of China's Economic Growth," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 37(2), pages 1-60.
  9. Lee Branstetter & Nicholas Lardy, 2006. "China's Embrace of Globalisation," Working Papers id:640, eSocialSciences.
  10. Dougherty, Sean & Herd, Richard & He, Ping, 2007. "Has a private sector emerged in China's industry? Evidence from a quarter of a million Chinese firms," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 309-334.
  11. Alwyn Young, 2000. "The Razor's Edge: Distortions and Incremental Reform in the People's Republic of China," NBER Working Papers 7828, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. von Hippel, Eric & Tyre, Marcie J., 1995. "How learning by doing is done: problem identification in novel process equipment," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 1-12, January.
  13. 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.
  14. Albert G. Z. Hu & Gary H. Jefferson & Qian Jinchang, 2005. "R&D and Technology Transfer: Firm-Level Evidence from Chinese Industry," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(4), pages 780-786, November.
  15. repec:idb:brikps:9164 is not listed on IDEAS
  16. John Whalley & Xian Xin, 2006. "China's FDI and Non-FDI Economies and the Sustainability of Future High Chinese Growth," NBER Working Papers 12249, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Alwyn Young, 1995. "The Tyranny of Numbers: Confronting the Statistical Realities of the East Asian Growth Experience," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(3), pages 641-680.
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