IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Efficiency, technical progress, and best practice in Chinese state enterprises (1980-1994)


  • Zheng, Jinghai
  • Liu, Xiaoxuan
  • Bigsten, Arne


In spite of rapid economic growth and swift structural change during the last two decades, China’s industrial reform is far from complete, especially with regard to state enterprises (SOEs). Although troubled with huge financial losses, heavy debt, and substantial over-staffing, SOEs will continue to play a crucial part in the government policy to maintain social stability and economic growth in China. This study, based on samples of about 700 state enterprises during 1980-94, investigates productivity performance of the SOEs using Data Envelopment Analysis and Malmquist Index. Our empirical results show that average technical efficiency had been low among the sample SOEs. Considerable productivity growth was found, but it was mainly accomplished through technical progress rather than efficiency improvement. Regression analyses indicate that wage incentives and education had positive impacts on productivity growth, while large scale was an important determinant of whether an SOE was applying best practice technology. It is also shown that large SOEs were more likely to generate technical progress. These findings are consistent with the industrial structural adjustment program initiated by the government in 1994, which has focused on improving productive efficiency via redundancies and technology upgrading, and on building its best SOEs into conglomerates.
(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

Suggested Citation

  • Zheng, Jinghai & Liu, Xiaoxuan & Bigsten, Arne, 2003. "Efficiency, technical progress, and best practice in Chinese state enterprises (1980-1994)," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 134-152, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jcecon:v:31:y:2003:i:1:p:134-152

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Woo Wing Thye & Hai Wen & Jin Yibiao & Fan Gang, 1994. "How Successful Has Chinese Enterprise Reform Been? Pitfalls in Opposite Biases and Focus," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 410-437, June.
    2. Guofu Tan & Justin Yifu Lin, 1999. "Policy Burdens, Accountability, and the Soft Budget Constraint," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 426-431, May.
    3. Lau, Kam-Tim & Brada, Josef C., 1990. "Technological progress and technical efficiency in Chinese industrial growth: A frontier production function approach," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 1(2), pages 113-124.
    4. Smyth, Russell, 2000. "Should China be Promoting Large-Scale Enterprises and Enterprise Groups?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 721-737, April.
    5. Li, David D. & Liang, Minsong, 1998. "Causes of the Soft Budget Constraint: Evidence on Three Explanations," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 104-116, March.
    6. Mao, Weining & Koo, Won W., 1997. "Productivity growth, technological progress, and efficiency change in chinese agriculture after rural economic reforms: A DEA approach," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 157-174.
    7. 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.
    8. Lee, Young, 1999. "Wages and Employment in China's SOEs, 1980-1994: Corporatization, Market Development, and Insider Forces," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 702-729, December.
    9. Xiao-yuan Dong & Louis Putterman, 2001. "On the Emergence of Labour Redundancy in China's State Industry: Findings from a 1980-1994 Data Panel," Comparative Economic Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Association for Comparative Economic Studies, vol. 43(2), pages 111-128, July.
    10. Haishun Sun & Phillip Hone & Hristos Doucouliago, 1999. "Economic openness and technical efficiency: A case study of Chinese manufacturing industries," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 7(3), pages 615-636, November.
    11. Fare, Rolf & Shawna Grosskopf & Mary Norris & Zhongyang Zhang, 1994. "Productivity Growth, Technical Progress, and Efficiency Change in Industrialized Countries," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(1), pages 66-83, March.
    12. Lee, Young, 1997. "Bank Loans, Self-Financing, and Grants in Chinese SOEs: Optimal Policy under Incomplete Information," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 140-160, April.
    13. Liu, Zinan & Liu, Guy Shaojia, 1996. "The Efficiency Impact of the Chinese Industrial Reforms in the 1980's," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 237-255, December.
    14. Zhang, Anming & Zhang, Yimin & Zhao, Ronald, 2001. "Impact of Ownership and Competition on the Productivity of Chinese Enterprises," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 327-346, June.
    15. Lin, Justin Yifu & Cai, Fang & Li, Zhou, 1998. "Competition, Policy Burdens, and State-Owned Enterprise Reform," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 422-427, May.
    16. Nolan, Peter & Xiaoqiang, Wang, 1999. "Beyond privatization: Institutional innovation and growth in China's large state-owned enterprises," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 169-200, January.
    17. 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.
    18. Wu Yanrui, 1994. "Productivity Growth, Technological Progress and Technical Efficiency Change in China: A Three-Sector Analysis," Chinese Economies Research Centre (CERC) Working Papers 1994-05, University of Adelaide, Chinese Economies Research Centre.
    19. Theodore Groves & Yongmiao Hong & John McMillan & Barry Naughton, 1994. "Autonomy and Incentives in Chinese State Enterprises," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(1), pages 183-209.
    20. Cornwell, Christopher & Schmidt, Peter & Sickles, Robin C., 1990. "Production frontiers with cross-sectional and time-series variation in efficiency levels," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 46(1-2), pages 185-200.
    21. Groves, Theodore & Yongmiao Hong & John McMillan & Barry Naughton, 1995. "China's Evolving Managerial Labor Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(4), pages 873-892, August.
    22. repec:mes:challe:v:42:y:1999:i:6:p:26-67 is not listed on IDEAS
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Yaisawarng, Suthathip & Ng, Ying Chu, 2014. "The impact of higher education reform on research performance of Chinese universities," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 94-105.
    2. Shuji Yao & Zhongwei Han & Dan Luo, 2010. "Performance of the Chinese Insurance Industry under Economic Reforms," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 12788.
    3. Anwar, Sajid & Sun, Sizhong, 2014. "Heterogeneity and curvilinearity of FDI-related productivity spillovers in China's manufacturing sector," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 23-32.
    4. Fulvio Castellacci & Jinghai Zheng, 2010. "Technological regimes, Schumpeterian patterns of innovation and firm-level productivity growth," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(6), pages 1829-1865, December.
    5. Eiji Yamamura & Inyong Shin, 2012. "Heterogeneity, Trust, Human Capital and Productivity Growth: Decomposition Analysis," Journal of Economics and Econometrics, Economics and Econometrics Society, vol. 55(2), pages 51-77.
    6. Deqiang Liu & Yanyun Zhao, 2006. "Ownership, Foreign Investment and Productivity--A Case Study of the Automotive Industry in China," Microeconomics Working Papers 21892, East Asian Bureau of Economic Research.
    7. Yuk-Shing Cheng & Dic Lo, 2004. "Firm Size, Technical Efficiency and Productivity Growth in Chinese Industry," Working Papers 144, Department of Economics, SOAS, University of London, UK.
    8. Halkos, George Emmanuel & Tzeremes, Nickolaos G., 2007. "Productivity efficiency and firm size: An empirical analysis of foreign owned companies," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 16(6), pages 713-731, December.
    9. Zheng, Jinghai & Bigsten, Arne & Hu, Angang, 2009. "Can China's Growth be Sustained? A Productivity Perspective," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 37(4), pages 874-888, April.
    10. Kou, Kou & Kroll, Henning, 2017. "Innovation output and state ownership: Empirical evidence from China's listed firms," Discussion Papers "Innovation Systems and Policy Analysis" 55, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI).
    11. Sylviane GUILLAUMONT JEANNENEY & PING HUA & ZHICHENG LIANG, 2006. "Financial Development, Economic Efficiency, And Productivity Growth: Evidence From China," The Developing Economies, Institute of Developing Economies, vol. 44(1), pages 27-52.
    12. Hao, Li & Houser, Daniel & Mao, Lei & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2014. "A Field Study of Chinese Migrant Workers' Attitudes toward Risks, Strategic Uncertainty, and Competitiveness," IZA Discussion Papers 8227, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    13. Chen, Shiyi & Golley, Jane, 2014. "‘Green’ productivity growth in China's industrial economy," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 89-98.
    14. Yamamura, Eiji & Shin, Inyong, 2007. "Dynamics of agglomeration economies and regional industrial structure: The case of the assembly industry of the Greater Tokyo Region, 1960-2000," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 483-499, December.
    15. Anwar, Sajid & Sun, Sizhong, 2012. "Trade liberalisation, market competition and wage inequality in China's manufacturing sector," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 1268-1277.
    16. Dong Yan & Whalley John, 2011. "Model Structure and the Combined Welfare and Trade Effects of China's Trade Related Policies," Global Economy Journal, De Gruyter, vol. 10(4), pages 1-21, January.
    17. Yao, Shujie & Han, Zhongwei & Feng, Genfu, 2007. "On technical efficiency of China's insurance industry after WTO accession," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 66-86.
    18. Sebastián Claro, 2005. "How Uncompetitive is the State-Owned Industrial Sector in China," Documentos de Trabajo 305, Instituto de Economia. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile..
    19. Hao, Li & Houser, Daniel & Mao, Lei & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2016. "Migrations, risks, and uncertainty: A field experiment in China," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 131(PA), pages 126-140.
    20. Simon, György, 2001. "Reform és növekedés Kínában
      [Reform and growth in China]
      ," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(7), pages 673-692.
    21. Watanabe, Michio & Tanaka, Katsuya, 2007. "Efficiency analysis of Chinese industry: A directional distance function approach," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(12), pages 6323-6331, December.
    22. He, Haoran & Weng, Qian, 2012. "Ownership, autonomy, incentives and efficiency: Evidence from the forest product processing industry in China," Journal of Forest Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 177-193.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D20 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - General
    • P20 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - General


    Access and download statistics


    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:eee:jcecon:v:31:y:2003:i:1:p:134-152. 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: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    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 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.

    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.