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The Incentive Role of Creating "Cities" in China

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  • Li, Lixing

Abstract

This paper examines a distinctive mechanism of providing incentives to local governments – upgrading counties to "cities". In China, awarding city status to existing counties is the dominant way of creating new urban administrative units, during which the local government gets many benefits. Using a large panel data set covering all counties in China during 1993-2004, I investigate the determinants of upgrading. I find that the official minimum requirements for upgrading are not enforced in practice. Instead, economic growth rate plays a key role in obtaining city status. An empirical test is then conducted to distinguish between a principal-agent incentive mechanism and political bargaining. The findings are consistent with the hypothesis that the central government uses upgrading to reward local officials for high growth, as well as aligning local interests with those of the center. This paper highlights the importance of both fiscal and political incentives facing the local government. The comparison between incentive mechanism and bargaining sheds light on an important question about China’s politics of governance: where does power lie in China?

Suggested Citation

  • Li, Lixing, 2008. "The Incentive Role of Creating "Cities" in China," MPRA Paper 8594, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:8594
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    2. Chenggang Xu, 2011. "The Fundamental Institutions of China's Reforms and Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(4), pages 1076-1151, December.
    3. Che, Yi, 2009. "Mismatch: land reallocations, recovery land rental and land rental market development in rural China," MPRA Paper 39794, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Wei Tang & Geoffrey J.D. Hewings, 2017. "Do city–county mergers in China promote local economic development?," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 25(3), pages 439-469, July.
    5. Caldeira, Emilie, 2012. "Yardstick competition in a federation: Theory and evidence from China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 878-897.
    6. Tie-Ying Liu & Chi-Wei Su & Xu-Zhao Jiang, 2016. "Is China’S Urbanization Convergent?," The Singapore Economic Review (SER), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 61(05), pages 1-18, December.
    7. Megha Mukim & T. Juni Zhu, 2018. "Empowering Cities: Good for Growth? Evidence from the People's Republic of China," Asian Development Review, MIT Press, vol. 35(1), pages 175-195, March.
    8. Mukim,Megha & Zhu,Tingting Juni, 2015. "Empowering cities : good for growth ? evidence from China," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7193, The World Bank.
    9. Hitzer, Eckhard & Sangwine, Stephen, 2017. "Multivector and multivector matrix inverses in real Clifford algebras," Applied Mathematics and Computation, Elsevier, vol. 311(C), pages 375-389.
    10. Xu, Cheng-Gang, 2010. "The Institutional Foundations of China’s Reforms and Development," CEPR Discussion Papers 7654, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    11. Lixing Li & Guangrong Ma, 2015. "Government Size and Tax Evasion: Evidence from China," Pacific Economic Review, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 20(2), pages 346-364, May.
    12. Che, Jiahua & Chung, Kim-Sau & Lu, Yang K., 2017. "Decentralization and political career concerns," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 201-210.
    13. Fan, Shenggen & Li, Lixing & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2012. "Challenges of creating cities in China: Lessons from a short-lived county-to-city upgrading policy," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 476-491.
    14. Chao Li & John Gibson, 2016. "Pareto's Law and City Size in China: Diverging Patterns in Land and People," Working Papers in Economics 16/09, University of Waikato.
    15. John Knight, 2015. "The Principal-Agent Problem, Economic Growth, Subjective Wellbeing and Social Instability: China’s Effective but Flawed Governance," Economics Series Working Papers 758, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    economic growth; incentive mechanism; bargaining; political centralization; fiscal decentralization; county-to-city upgrading; central-local relationship;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H77 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Intergovernmental Relations; Federalism
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
    • R11 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Regional Economic Activity: Growth, Development, Environmental Issues, and Changes
    • P26 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Political Economy

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