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Trade and Foreign Direct Investment in China: A Political Economy Approach

  • Lee G. Branstetter
  • Robert C. Feenstra

We view the political process in China as trading off the social benefits of increased trade and foreign direct investment, against the losses incurred by state-owned enterprises due to such liberalization. A model drawing on Grossman and Helpman (1994, 1996) is used to derive an empirically estimable government objective function. The key structural parameters of this model are estimated using province-level data on foreign direct investment and trade flows in China, over the years 1984-1995. We find that the weight applied to consumer welfare is between one-fifth and one-twelfth of the weight applied to the output of state-owned enterprises. We find that governmental preferences have shifted over time, but even in recent periods the weight on consumer welfare is only one-half of the weight on state-owned enterprises. This suggests that China may find it politically difficult to follow through with liberalizing its trade and investment regimes, such as under its WTO accession proposal.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7100.

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Date of creation: Apr 1999
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Publication status: published as Branstetter, Lee G. & Feenstra, Robert C., 2002. "Trade and foreign direct investment in China: a political economy approach," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 335-358, December.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7100
Note: ITI
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  1. Robert C. Feenstra, 1999. "Discrepancies in International Data: An Application to China-Hong Kong Entrepot Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 338-343, May.
  2. Devashish Mitra & Dimitrios D. Thomakos & Mehmet A. Ulubaşoglu, 2002. ""Protection For Sale" In A Developing Country: Democracy Vs. Dictatorship," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(3), pages 497-508, August.
  3. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 1992. "Protection For Sale," NBER Working Papers 4149, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Jeffrey D. Sachs & Wing Thye Woo, 1997. "Understanding China's Economic Performance," NBER Working Papers 5935, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Barry Naughton, 1996. "China's Emergence and Prospects as a Trading Nation," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 27(2), pages 273-344.
  6. Bernheim, B Douglas & Whinston, Michael D, 1986. "Menu Auctions, Resource Allocation, and Economic Influence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(1), pages 1-31, February.
  7. Shang-Jin Wei, 2000. "Why Does China Attract So Little Foreign Direct Investment?," NBER Chapters, in: The Role of Foreign Direct Investment in East Asian Economic Development, NBER-EASE Volume 9, pages 239-265 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Pinelopi Koujianou Goldbe & Giovanni Maggi, 1997. "Protection for Sale: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Working Papers 5942, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Brecher, Richard A. & Diaz Alejandro, Carlos F., 1977. "Tariffs, foreign capital and immiserizing growth," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(4), pages 317-322, November.
  10. Gene Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 1994. "Foreign Investment with Endogenous Protection," NBER Working Papers 4876, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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