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Das (Wasted) Kapital: Firm Ownership and Investment Efficiency in China

  • David Dollar
  • Shang-Jin Wei

Based on a survey that we designed and that covers a stratified random sample of 12,400 firms in 120 cities in China with firm-level accounting information for 2002-2004, this paper examines the presence of systematic distortions in capital allocation that result in uneven marginal returns to capital across firm ownership, regions, and sectors. It provides a systematic comparison of investment efficiency among wholly and partially state-owned, wholly and partially foreign-owned, and domestic privately owned firms, conditioning on their sector, location, and size characteristics. It finds that even after a quarter-of-century of reforms, state-owned firms still have significantly lower returns to capital, on average, than domestic private or foreign-owned firms. Similarly, certain regions and sectors have consistently lower returns to capital than other regions and sectors. By our calculation, if China succeeds in allocating its capital more efficiently, it could reduce its capital stock by 8 percent without sacrificing its economic growth (and hence could raise its household consumption and deliver a faster improvement to its citizens' living standard).

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13103.

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Date of creation: May 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13103
Note: IFM CF
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  1. Albert Park and Kaja Sehrt & Albert Park and Kaja Sehrt, 1999. "Tests of Financial Intermediation and Banking Reform in China," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 270, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  2. Kui-Wai Li, 2003. "China's Capital and Productivity Measurement Using Financial Resources," Working Papers 851, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  3. Boyreau-Debray, Genevieve & Wei, Shang-Jin, 2004. "Pitfalls of a State-Dominated Financial System: The Case of China," CEPR Discussion Papers 4471, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  5. Franklin Allen & Jun Qian & Meijun Qian, 2002. "Law, Finance, and Economic Growth in China," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 02-44, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
  6. Chong-En Bai & Chang-Tai Hsieh & Yingyi Qian, 2006. "The Return to Capital in China," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 37(2), pages 61-102.
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