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Deepening reform and opening-up for China to grow into a high-income country

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This paper constructs a growth model that is consistent with salient features of the recent Chinese growth experience: high output growth, sustained returns on capital investment, extensive reallocation within the manufacturing sector, falling labor share and accumulation of a large foreign surplus. The building blocks of the theory are asymmetric financial imperfections and heterogeneous productivity. Some firms use more productive technologies, but low-productivity firms survive because of better access to credit markets. Due to the financial imperfections, high-productivity firms — which are run by entrepreneurs — must be financed out of internal savings. If these savings are sufficiently large, the high-productivity firms outgrow the low-productivity firms and attract an increasing employment share. The downsizing of the financially integrated firms forces a growing share of domestic savings to be invested in foreign assets, generating a foreign surplus. A calibrated version of the theory can account quantitatively for China’s growth experience during 1992-2007.
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Since the mid-1990s, researchers have used micro datasets to study countries' production and trade at the firm level and have found that exporting firms differ substantially from firms that solely serve the domestic market. Across a wide range of countries and industries, exporting firms have been shown to be larger, more productive, more skill- and capital-intensive, and to pay higher wages than nonexporting firms. These differences exist even before exporting begins and have important consequences for evaluating the gains from trade and their distribution across factors of production. The new empirical research challenges traditional models of international trade and, as a result, the focus of the international trade field has shifted from countries and industries towards firms and products. Recently available transaction-level U.S. trade data reveal new stylized facts about firms' participation in international markets, and recent theories of international trade incorporating the behavior of heterogenous firms have made substantial progress in explaining patterns of trade and productivity growth.
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Following three decades of rapid but unbalanced economic growth, China's reform agendas are set to rebalance the economy towards consumption while maintaining strong GDP growth. Headwinds include a demographic contraction that will bring negative labour force growth and rapid ageing. Rising aged dependency combined with lower saving rates will rebalance the economy, but they will reduce both GDP growth and real per capita income. While an effective two-child policy could sustain growth and eventually mitigate the aged dependency problem, it would set real per capita income on a still lower path. These conundrums are examined using a global economic and demographic model, which shows how the continuing demographic and saving contractions in China would alter the trajectories of both the Chinese and global economies.
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Accumulation of human capital is indispensable to spur economic growth. If students fail to acquire needed skills, not only will they have a hard time finding high-wage employment in the future but the development of the economies in which they work may also stagnate owing to a shortage of human capital. The overall goal of this study is to try to understand if China is ready in terms of the education of its labour force to progress from middle-income to high-income country status. To achieve this goal, we seek to understand the share of the labour force that has attained at least some upper secondary schooling ( upper secondary attainment ) and to benchmark these educational attainment rates against the rates of the labour forces in other countries (e.g. high-income/OECD countries; a subset of G20 middle-income/BRICS countries). Using the sixth population census data, we are able to show that China's human capital is shockingly poor. In 2010, only 24 per cent of China's entire labour force (individuals aged 25–64) had ever attended upper secondary school. This rate is less than one-third of the average upper secondary attainment rate in OECD countries. China's overall upper secondary attainment rate and the attainment rate of its youngest workers (aged 25–34) is also the lowest of all the BRICS countries (with the exception of India for which data were not available). Our analysis also demonstrates that the statistics on upper secondary education reported by the Ministry of Education (MoE) are overestimated. In the paper, we document when MoE and census-based statistics diverge, and raise three possible policy-based reasons why officials may have begun to have an incentive to misreport in the mid-2000s.
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I. Introduction, 65. — II. A model of long-run growth, 66. — III. Possible growth patterns, 68. — IV. Examples, 73. — V. Behavior of interest and wage rates, 78. — VI. Extensions, 85. — VII. Qualifications, 91.
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Competitive neutrality implies that no business entity is advantaged (or disadvantaged) solely because of its ownership. The Paper argues that far from all SOEs have the opportunity or the incentives to act in an anti-competitive way, and a trend in recent decades toward more fully corporatised and commercially operating SOEs has no doubt improved overall efficiency. However, problems remain, not least in the network industries where many remaining SOEs are market incumbents that continue to enjoy monopolies in part of their value chains or government subsidies, purportedly in compensation for public service obligations. Renewed concerns about competitive neutrality have also arisen from the market entry of SOEs domiciled in countries where the process of corporatisation has yet to run its full course.To counter these problems some OECD countries as well as the European Union have established specific competitive neutrality frameworks. These frameworks go beyond addressing the anti-competitive behaviour of SOEs, to also establish mechanisms to identify and eliminate such competitive advantages as they may have, including with respect to taxation, financing costs and regulatory neutrality. The experience so far with such formal arrangements is generally encouraging. Jurisdictions that have them have generally been successful in rolling back state subsidies and, on the evidence to date, have obtained significant economic efficiency gains.The Working Paper concludes that a full implementation of the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance of State-Owned Enterprises would go a long way in ensuring competitive neutrality. The business activities of currently unincorporated segments of the government sector would become much more competitive and accountable if they were made subject to the Guidelines. For incorporated SOEs the Guidelines also include a portmanteau recommendation of a “level playing field”. However, they offer only limited concrete recommendations on how governments are expected to obtain this outcome in practice. The Guidelines are moreover weakly implemented in a number of countries.
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China’s high corporate savings rate is commonly claimed to be a key driver for the country’s large current account surplus. The mainstream explanation for high corporate savings is a combination of windfall profits in state-owned firms, especially in resource sectors, and mis-governance of state-owned firms represented by their low dividend payout. The paper casts doubt on these views by comparing the savings of 1557 Chinese listed firms with those of 29330 listed firms from 51 other countries over 2002-07. First, Chinese firms do not have a significantly higher savings rate (as a share of total assets) than the global average because corporations in most countries have a high savings rate. The rising corporate savings rate is also consistent with a global trend. Second, there is no significant difference in the savings behavior and dividend patterns between Chinese majority state-owned and private listed firms, contrary to the received wisdom.
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In 1961, Nicholas Kaldor highlighted six "stylized" facts to summarize the patterns that economists had discovered in national income accounts and to shape the growth models being developed to explain them. Redoing this exercise today shows just how much progress we have made. In contrast to Kaldor's facts, which revolved around a single state variable, physical capital, our updated facts force consideration of four far more interesting variables: ideas, institutions, population, and human capital. Dynamic models have uncovered subtle interactions among these variables, generating important insights about such big questions as: Why has growth accelerated? Why are there gains from trade? (JEL D01, E01, E22, E23, E24, J11)