Institutional Change and Productivity Growth in China’s Manufacturing: The Microeconomics of Knowledge Accumulation and “Creative Restructuring”

Xiaodan Yu, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna; Giovanni Dosi, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna; Jiasu Lei, Tsinghua University; and Alessandro Nuvolari, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna

Industrial and Corporate Change

Abstract: This article investigates the microeconomics underlying the spectacular growth of productivity in China’s manufacturing sector over the period 1998–2007. Underlying the aggregate evidence of such dramatic growth, one observes a large, albeit shrinking, intra-sectoral heterogeneity coupled with an even more important process of learning and knowledge accumulation. A major process of both catching-up and dying out among the least efficient ones occurs. Furthermore, we explore the effect of the characteristics of firms according to the ownership and governance structure upon the productivity distributions, highlighting the importance of the transformation of domestic firms as drivers of technical learning. In essence, China’s fast catching-up process entails more of learning and “creative restructuring” of domestic firms rather than sheer “creative destruction” and even less so a multinational corporation-led drive.

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