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The Institutional Foundations of China's Market Transition

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  • Yingyi Qian

Abstract

April 1999 This paper intends to properly account for China's two decades of market transition by examining its institutional foundations. The journey of transition is analyzed as a two-stage process. In the first stage (1978-93), the system was reformed to unleash the standard forces of incentives, hard budget constraints, and competition, but the underlying institutional forms and mechanisms are far from conventional: reforming government through regional decentralization; entry and expansion of nonstate (mostly local government) enterprises; financial stability through "financial dualism;" and a dual-track approach to market liberalization. In the second stage, China aimed to build a rule-based market system incorporating international best practice institutions but proceeded in its own way. Major progress was made in the first five years (1994-98) on the unification of exchange rates and convertability of the current account; the overhaul of the tax and fiscal systems; reorganization of the central bank; downsizing of the government bureaucracy; and privatization and restructuring of state-owned enterprises. To complete its transition to markets, China still faces serious challenges, especially in transforming its financial system and state-owned enterprises and in establishing the rule of law. The paper concludes by reflecting on the economics of reform and institutional change from the Chinese experience. The main lesson learned is that considerable growth is possible with sensible but not perfect institutions, and that some unconventional "transitional institutions" can be more effective than the best practice institutions for a period of time because of the second-best principle. Specific lessons include: incentives, hard budget constraints, and competition should apply not only to firms but also to governments; reforms can be implemented without creating many or big losers; and successful reforms require appropriate, but not necessarily optimal, sequencing.

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  • Yingyi Qian, 1999. "The Institutional Foundations of China's Market Transition," Working Papers 99011, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:stanec:99011
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    3. Полтерович В.М., 2006. "Стратегии Институциональных Реформ. Перспективные Траектории," Журнал Экономика и математические методы (ЭММ), Центральный Экономико-Математический Институт (ЦЭМИ), vol. 42(1), январь.
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    5. Milanovic, Branko & Hoff, Karla & Horowitz, Shale, 2008. "Political alternation as a restraint on investing in influence : evidence from the post-communist transition," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4747, The World Bank.
    6. Yang, Xiaokai, 2001. "China's entry to the WTO," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 437-442.
    7. Yasheng Huang & Wenhua Di, 2004. "A Tale of Two Provinces: The Institutional Environment and Foreign Ownership in China," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 2004-667, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
    8. Yang, Qing Gong & Temple, Paul, 2012. "Reform and competitive selection in China: An analysis of firm exits," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 286-299.
    9. Kang, Young-Sam & Kim, Byung-Yeon, 2012. "Ownership structure and firm performance: Evidence from the Chinese corporate reform," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 471-481.
    10. Yang, Zhou, 2016. "Tax reform, fiscal decentralization, and regional economic growth: New evidence from China," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 520-528.
    11. Полтерович В.М., 2006. "Стратегии Институциональных Реформ. Китай И Россия," Журнал Экономика и математические методы (ЭММ), Центральный Экономико-Математический Институт (ЦЭМИ), vol. 42(2), апрель.
    12. Li Keping & Mr. Ehtisham Ahmad & Mr. Thomas J Richardson & Mr. Raju J Singh, 2002. "Recentralization in China?," IMF Working Papers 2002/168, International Monetary Fund.
    13. Qiangbing Chen, 2008. "Rent seeking and economic liberalization: why are China and Vietnam different from Eastern Europe?," Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(2), pages 168-179.
    14. Li, Minqi, 2004. "Aggregate Demand, Productivity, and "Disguised Unemployment" in the Chinese Industrial Sector," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 409-425, March.
    15. Yasheng Huang, 1999. "The Institutional Foundation of Foreign-Invested Enterprises (FIEs) in China," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 264, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
    16. Xiaogang Wu & Yu Xie, 2002. "Does the Market Pay Off? Earnings Inequality and Returns to Education in Urban China," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 454, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
    17. Rodrik, Dani, 2001. "Development strategies for the next century," Sede de la CEPAL en Santiago (Estudios e Investigaciones) 33124, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL).
    18. Sonja Opper, 2001. "Dual-track Ownership Reforms: Lessons from Structural Change in China, 1978-1997," Post-Communist Economies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(2), pages 205-227.
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