The nature of economic development zones in China:an empirical study based on data from the Yangtze River Delta
Development zones, born in the course of China’s economic transition, are the carriers of both the favorable institutions and the foreign advanced technology. They are now at the stage of transferring from the concentration of firms to being industrial clusters. Based on data of firms in development zones along the Yangtze River obtained through micro-level investigation, this paper studies the effects of local factors special to development zones as well as the influence of technology promotion on the economic performance of those firms “locating” in development zones, and thus discloses the nature of firms concentrating into development zones and their trend of transferring into industrial clusters. The empirical study suggests that firms locating on development zones mainly aim at obtaining “policy rents”, which results in that firms concentrating in development zones do not possess the industrial cluster effect in the general sense: the benefits of closing to the supply or demand market. However, although firms in a develop zone do not necessarily concentrate with related firms in space, their technology and market activities are inevitably to produce relations with factors such as local governments and related industrial elements and thus affect the economic performance of firms and nurture the clustering effects of development zones. Therefore, as “policy rents” fade away due to industry transfer and adjustment of favorable economic policies, the key to keep development zones sustainable is to enhance their clustering effects.
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