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The Puzzle of Firm Performance in China: An Institutional Explanation


  • Shaomin Li



China has achieved phenomenal economic growth in an institutional environment that defies conventional economic rationales. Researchers offer different theories to explain this puzzle. But so far, due to the lack of data, little effort has been made to test these theories at the firm level. We develop a framework of endogenous institutional change to explain this puzzle and we test our framework with firm-level data. We argue that the decentralization from the central to the local governments and from government to firms are the driving forces behind China's institutional changes that have shaped the roles of government and market, which in turn significantly affect firm performance. We then submit our theory to a vigorous empirical test using data from China's industrial census, covering all 2000 counties and over 500 manufacturing industries. The test shows that two results of decentralization, the involvement of low-level governments in business and the process of privatization, positively affect firm performance. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Suggested Citation

  • Shaomin Li, 2004. "The Puzzle of Firm Performance in China: An Institutional Explanation," Economic Change and Restructuring, Springer, vol. 37(1), pages 47-68, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:ecopln:v:37:y:2004:i:1:p:47-68
    DOI: 10.1007/s10644-004-1583-x

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Yingyi Qian & Barry R. Weingast, 1997. "Federalism as a Commitment to Reserving Market Incentives," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(4), pages 83-92, Fall.
    2. Schmalensee, Richard, 1989. "Inter-industry studies of structure and performance," Handbook of Industrial Organization,in: R. Schmalensee & R. Willig (ed.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 16, pages 951-1009 Elsevier.
    3. Li, Shaomin & Li, Shuhe & Zhang, Weiying, 2000. "The Road to Capitalism: Competition and Institutional Change in China," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 269-292, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sai Ding & Alessandra Guariglia & Richard Harris, 2016. "The determinants of productivity in Chinese large and medium-sized industrial firms, 1998–2007," Journal of Productivity Analysis, Springer, vol. 45(2), pages 131-155, April.
    2. Ding, Sai & Guariglia, Alessandra & Knight, John, 2013. "Investment and financing constraints in China: Does working capital management make a difference?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(5), pages 1490-1507.
    3. Xia, Jun & Li, Shaomin & Long, Cheryl, 2009. "The Transformation of Collectively Owned Enterprises and its Outcomes in China, 2001-05," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 37(10), pages 1651-1662, October.
    4. Sai Ding & Alessandra Guariglia & John Knight, "undated". "Does China overinvest? Evidence from a panel of Chinese firms," Discussion Papers 12/04, University of Nottingham, GEP.
    5. Alessandra Guariglia & Simona Mateut, "undated". "Political affiliation and trade credit extension by Chinese firms," Discussion Papers 11/12, University of Nottingham, GEP.
    6. Qin, Zhong, 2011. "Models of trust-sharing in Chinese private enterprises," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 1017-1029, May.
    7. repec:spr:empeco:v:53:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s00181-016-1174-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. repec:spr:soinre:v:132:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s11205-015-1220-2 is not listed on IDEAS


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