There is an ongoing debate within the economic growth and development literature whether institutions or human capital are more important for economic growth. We add further arguments to this discussion by focusing on a particular country, namely China. China is an interesting case study since it is often regarded as an exception by having achieved miraculous growth for more than three decades despite relatively low institutional quality. We employ a dynamic panel data model to analyze the role of improvements in institutional quality and human capital accumulation for the economic success of a province in China over the period 2003 to 2007. Using system GMM estimation, we find that while growth in human capital fosters economic growth all over China, only coastal provinces record a positive effect of institutional improvements on the growth rate of per capita income.