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Recasting the Iron Rice Bowl: The Reform of China's State-Owned Enterprises


  • Daniel Berkowitz

    (University of Pittsburgh)

  • Hong Ma

    (Tsinghua University)

  • Shuichiro Nishioka

    (West Virginia University)


Following the enactment of reforms in the mid-1990s, China's state-owned enterprises (SOEs) became more profitable. Using theoretical insights from Azmat, Manning, and Van Reenen (2012) and Karabarbounis and Neiman (2014) and econometric methods in De Loecker andWarzynski (2012), this paper finds that SOE restructuring was nevertheless limited. This is because SOE profitability gains in part reflect that they were under less political pressure to hire excess labor and also their cost of capital fell and their capital-labor elasticity of substitution generally exceeded unity. Moreover, SOE productivity lagged that of foreign and private firms.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Berkowitz & Hong Ma & Shuichiro Nishioka, 2017. "Recasting the Iron Rice Bowl: The Reform of China's State-Owned Enterprises," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 99(4), pages 735-747, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:99:y:2017:i:4:p:735-747

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    Cited by:

    1. Randall Morck & Bernard Yeung, 2017. "East Asian Financial and Economic Development," Working Papers id:12112, eSocialSciences.
    2. He, Ming & Chen, Yang & van Marrewijk, Charles, 2021. "The effects of urban transformation on productivity spillovers in China," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 473-488.
    3. Daniel Berkowitz, 2020. "Declining Market Competition in China," Working Paper 6897, Department of Economics, University of Pittsburgh.
    4. Richard Harris & Nigar Hashimzade & Sai Ding, 2016. "Political Connections, State Ownership and Productivity in China," CESifo Working Paper Series 6236, CESifo.
    5. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Zheng (Michael) Song, 2015. "Grasp the Large, Let Go of the Small: The Transformation of the State Sector in China," NBER Working Papers 21006, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Funke, Michael & Li, Xiang & Tsang, Andrew, 2019. "Monetary policy shocks and peer-to-peer lending in China," BOFIT Discussion Papers 23/2019, Bank of Finland, Institute for Economies in Transition.
    7. Kaiji Chen & Haoyu Gao & Patrick C. Higgins & Daniel F. Waggoner & Tao Zha, 2020. "Monetary Stimulus Amidst the Infrastructure Investment Spree: Evidence from China's Loan-Level Data," NBER Working Papers 27763, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Steven Lugauer & Jinlan Ni & Zhichao Yin, 2014. "Micro-Data Evidence on Family Size and Chinese Saving Rates," Working Papers 023, University of Notre Dame, Department of Economics, revised Jun 2014.
    9. Walheer, Barnabé & He, Ming, 2020. "Technical efficiency and technology gap of the manufacturing industry in China: Does firm ownership matter?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 127(C).
    10. Taining Wang & Jinjing Tian & Feng Yao, 0. "Does high debt ratio influence Chinese firms’ performance? A semiparametric stochastic frontier approach with zero inefficiency," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 0, pages 1-50.
    11. Corbellini, Aldo & Magnani, Marco & Morelli, Gianluca, 2021. "Labor market analysis through transformations and robust multivariate models," Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 73(C).
    12. Cui Hu & Faqin Lin & Yong Tan & Yihong Tang, 2019. "How exporting firms respond to technical barriers to trade?," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(5), pages 1400-1426, May.
    13. Lu, Yi & Sugita, Yoichi & Zhu, Lianming, 2019. "Wage and Markdowns and FDI Liberalization," Discussion paper series HIAS-E-83, Hitotsubashi Institute for Advanced Study, Hitotsubashi University.
    14. Feng, Shuaizhang & Guo, Naijia, 2019. "Labor Market Dynamics in Urban China and the Role of the State Sector," IZA Discussion Papers 12170, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    15. Shuaizhang Feng & Naijia Guo, 2019. "Labor Market Dynamics in Urban China and the Role of the State Sector," Working Papers 2019-008, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    16. Loren Brandt & Feitao Jiang & Yao Luo & Yingjun Su, 2019. "Ownership and Productivity in Vertically-Integrated Firms: Evidence from the Chinese Steel Industry," Working Papers tecipa-641, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
    17. Liang Zheng, 2021. "The impact of state-owned enterprises on the employment growth of manufacturing in Chinese cities: Evidence from economic census microdata," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 58(8), pages 1655-1673, June.
    18. Daniel Berkowitz, 2016. "Capital-Labor Substitution, Institutions and Labor Shares," Working Paper 5981, Department of Economics, University of Pittsburgh.
    19. Cao, Xiaping & Cumming, Douglas & Zhou, Sili, 2020. "State ownership and corporate innovative efficiency," Emerging Markets Review, Elsevier, vol. 44(C).
    20. Namrata Kala, 2019. "The Impacts of Managerial Autonomy on Firm Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 26304, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. Daniel Berkowitz, 2018. "Market Distortions and Labor Share Distributions: Evidence from Chinese Manufacturing Firms," Working Paper 6466, Department of Economics, University of Pittsburgh.
    22. Walheer, Barnabe & Hudik, Marek, 2019. "Reallocation of resources in multidivisional firms: A nonparametric approach," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 214(C), pages 196-205.
    23. Tao, Jin & Ho, Chun-Yu & Luo, Shougui & Sheng, Yue, 2019. "Agglomeration economies in creative industries," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 141-154.

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