Frontiers of Economics in China

ISSN 1673-3444

ISSN 1673-3568(Online)

CN 11-5744/F

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Why Does the World Need a Reserve Asset with a Hard Anchor?
Dongsheng Di, Warren Coats, Yuxuan Zhao
Front. Econ. China    2017, 12 (4): 545-570.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-006-017-0023-7
Abstract   PDF (835KB)

From the 1970s, the global currency system has two features: the use of one or a few sovereign currencies as the global reserve asset and the floating exchange rate regime between major currencies. This paper points out that the costs of the dollar’s use as an international reserve currency exceed the benefits for both the US and the rest of the world. These costs include the exporting of American manufacturing as a byproduct of its current account deficit needed to supply its currency to the rest of the world. In addition to the detriment to trade from unpredictable exchange rate fluctuations, the termination of the U.S. obligation to redeem its currency for gold also removed an important restraint on deficit financing for the US and many other countries in the short-run, thus promoting excessive leverage that was a major contributor to the 2008 financial crisis. The paper suggests replacing several main countries’ currencies in international reserves with a real Special Drawing Right (SDR) issued according to currency board rules.

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Rethinking Globalization in the Trump Era: US-China Relations
Joseph E. Stiglitz
Front. Econ. China    2018, 13 (2): 133-146.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-007-018-0010-3
Abstract   PDF (272KB)

The global economic and political order that was created in the aftermath of World War II is under attack by President Donald Trump. In this article, Nobel Prize Laureate Joseph Stiglitz discusses the scope for protectionist actions by President Trump and suggests how countries such as China could and should respond. In particular, he proposes a set of ten principles that should guide China’s response, principles designed to enhance a more stable and efficient multi-polar system of global governance that can contribute to a stronger global economy.

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Examining the Factors Affecting Personal Income: An Empirical Study Based on Survey Data in Chinese Cities
Lihui Wang, Junyi Shen
Front. Econ. China    2017, 12 (4): 515-544.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-006-017-0022-0
Abstract   PDF (441KB)

This paper empirically analyzes the factors affecting personal income in urban China using survey data of the “Preference and Life Satisfaction Survey” conducted by the Global COE project of Osaka University from 2009 to 2013. We consider education level as an endogenous variable, and both ordinary least squares (OLS) regression and instrumental variable (IV) regression are performed. We find a number of factors, such as sex, age, education, and marriage that significantly affect personal income. In addition, differences between different occupations are also investigated.

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Conquering China’s Unbalanced and Inadequate Development: Macroeconomic Outlook, Policy Simulations, and Reform Implementation—A Summary of Annual SUFE Macroeconomic Report (2017–2018)
Kevin X. D. Huang, Lei Ning, Guoqiang Tian
Front. Econ. China    2018, 13 (2): 147-170.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-007-018-0011-0
Abstract   PDF (5025KB)

Leaving year 2017 China’s macroeconomy is continuously characterized by unbalanced and inadequate development. Whereas some aggregate indicators have shown improvement over the year, the cumulative growth rates in consumption and fixed asset investment have continued their downward trajectories. Worsening income inequality and resource misallocations, both between secondary and tertiary industries, and within the latter, pose serious challenges, let alone the systemic risk associated with the flourishing shadow banking system, rapid credit growth and debt overhang that weigh on the Chinese economy like the Sword of Damocles. This summary report highlights both the status quo and the consequences of the unbalanced and inadequate development embodied in China’s persistently distorted economic structure, and the role of deepening reforms of the institutions and governance in resolving the problems. Our analyses based on IAR-CMM model provide a unified framework for addressing China’s short-, medium-, and long-term issues in an internally coherent manner. Looking into year 2018, our benchmark projection of real GDP growth rate is 6.7% (6.41% using more reliable rather than the official data). Alternative scenario analyses and policy simulations are conducted to reflect various aspects of the economic challenges in the short to long runs. Through the lens of these analyses we conclude that rule-of-law based and market-oriented structural reforms should continue to hold a center stage in China’s transition from a phase of high-speed but unbalanced growth, to a stage of balanced and adequate high-quality development.

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Offshoring and Reshoring: The Roles of Incomplete Contracts and Relative Bargaining Power
Ngo Van Long, Maxwell Tuuli
Front. Econ. China    2018, 13 (1): 32-51.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-007-018-0004-4
Abstract   PDF (338KB)

This paper demonstrates that an increase in bargaining power of Northern firms relative to that of their Southern contractors can trigger reshoring if the North-South wage differential is moderate, such that only industries with a high share of unskilled labor find outsourcing profitable. However, such an increase in Northern bargaining power can increase offshoring if the wage differential is so high that even industries with a low share of unskilled labor also offshore.

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Are Central and Western Chinese Provinces Catching up with the East? An Empirical Analysis of Convergence Processes across China
Marlies Schütz, Han Li, Nicole Palan
Front. Econ. China    2017, 12 (4): 571-606.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-006-017-0024-4
Abstract   PDF (1748KB)

Since the Reform and Opening-up policy had been implemented in 1978, mainland China has experienced significant economic growth, with GDP rising on an annual average of about 10%. However, this growth miracle was far from being evenly distributed across space. It is, therefore, the aim of this paper to study the evolution of spatial disparities in economic development across the country between 1993 and 2012, a period which is characterized by all provinces having access to international markets and being open for international investors. We seek to answer the question of whether Central and Western Chinese provinces were catching up with the East. We define ‘catching up’ as a growing similarity among spatial units. Convergence processes might manifest in four dimensions, including (1) the spatial allocation of employment, value added generation and the fixed capital stock, (2) forms of technical change, (3) productivity patterns, and (4) income distribution. Results show that persistent phases of convergence appeared. However, in some cases the catching up of China’s less developed parts with the flourishing East was limited to only a few Western and Central Chinese provinces. A high degree of path-dependency in economic development prevented catching up from taking place in a more uniform manner.

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Global Value Chains, Horizontal Intra-Industry Trade and the Heterogeneous Firm
Sven W. Arndt
Front. Econ. China    2018, 13 (1): 68-82.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-007-018-0006-8
Abstract   PDF (789KB)

This paper examines global value chains at the level of the heterogeneous firm. The context is a world of horizontal intra-industry trade, characterized by imperfect competition and product differentiation at the firm level. Standard microeconomic tools are employed to assess the effects of inter-firm dissimilarities in both demand and supply on firms’ responses to changes in trade policy. In this set-up, dissimilarities in firm characteristics play roles similar to factor endowments and technology differences in traditional trade models. When cross-border production sharing (“fragmentation”) is introduced into this framework, those differences in firm characteristics determine the degree to which individual firms will enter into production networks. In this context, horizontal and vertical intra-industry trade elements interact in their effects on firm decisions. Traditional comparative advantage considerations still govern the choice of off-shored activities, while direct competition between imports and exports expands the range of possible outcomes. Finally, it is shown that cross-border production sharing reduces the sensitivity of firms to variations in exchange rates, matching a phenomenon that has been observed in traditional country-level models.

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Agglomeration and Firm Export
Churen Sun, Zhihao Yu, Tao Zhang
Front. Econ. China    2018, 13 (1): 116-132.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-007-018-0009-9
Abstract   PDF (320KB)

Using Chinese manufacturing data between 1998 and 2007, this paper investigates the impact of agglomeration on firm’s export behavior. It is found that the agglomeration of manufacturing industries in China over this period increases firm’s export probability as well as its export volume, and the impact is larger for more efficient firms. However, the impact on firm’s export volume depends on the degree of agglomeration. When the degree of agglomeration is low, an increase in agglomeration would expand firm’s export volume but the impact will be diminishing and even turns negative if the degree of agglomeration is already very high.

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Local Import Competition in a Lumpy Country
Alan V. Deardorff
Front. Econ. China    2018, 13 (1): 5-14.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-007-018-0002-0
Abstract   PDF (441KB)

This paper examines the effects of a fall in the price of an imported good in a region of a country that is specialized in producing that good. The context is a “lumpy country” model in which factors are unable to move between locations, although in this case I assume that only labor is immobile, and that the other factor, capital, is perfectly mobile between regions. With mobile capital, the lumpy-country equilibrium can be anywhere in the factor-price equalization set, but my focus is on a region that initially produces only one good, on the border of that set. When the price of that good falls due to import competition, it would be possible for both factors to reallocate partially into production of the other good, but I assume instead that some capital simply leaves the region, so that it continues to produce only the same good that it did before. The result of this is a fall in the real wage of labor, just as under Stolper-Samuelson assumptions. I then look at production also of a non-traded good, and find that the same import competition that cheapened the traded good also cheapens the nontraded good. The result is that the region shrinks, losing capital and producing less of both goods unless the substitution in favor of the nontraded good expands its consumption out of a smaller income.

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Short-Term and Long-Term Margins of International Trade: Evidence from the Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement
Zhiqi Chen, Marcel C. Voia
Front. Econ. China    2018, 13 (1): 93-115.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-007-018-0008-2
Abstract   PDF (3335KB)

We investigate the impact of the Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) on Canadian exports to Chile, particularly the dynamic effects of the agreement on extensive and intensive margins of trade. Consistent with the literature, we find that the extensive margin effects occurred later than the intensive margin effects and became more prominent in the long-term. Surprisingly, the intensive margin effects died off in the long-term. A theoretical model is constructed to show that our results can arise in a standard setting of intra-industry trade.

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The Effects of Macroeconomic Policies in a Mercantilist Economy
Gaowang Wang, Heng-fu Zou
Front. Econ. China    2018, 13 (2): 171-195.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-007-018-0012-7
Abstract   PDF (365KB)

By introducing money and foreign exchange in the Zou (1997) model of mercantilism, the paper shows the effects of macroeconomic policies in mercantilist economies. It is shown that in the long run, consumption and foreign asset accumulation increases as a result of stronger mercantilist sentiments, permanent increases in the consumption tax, increases in the monetary growth rate and purchases of foreign bonds. In the short run, however, macroeconomic disturbances including the mercantilist sentiments, the monetary growth rate, and the consumption tax have negative effects on current consumption and positive effects on current foreign asset accumulation, while purchasing foreign bonds has positive effects on both current consumption and current foreign asset accumulation. The theoretical explorations may provide a theoretical structure for hoarding international reserves and export-led growth strategy utilized by emerging market economies.

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Revenue-Constrained Combination of an Optimal Tariff and Duty Drawback
Tatsuo Hatta
Front. Econ. China    2018, 13 (1): 52-67.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-007-018-0005-1
Abstract   PDF (349KB)

A duty drawback is an export subsidy determined as a percentage of the tariffs paid on the imported inputs used in its production. This paper examines the revenue-constrained optimal tariff structure in a small open economy including a duty drawback as a trade policy tool. This paper has two main aims. First, we show that the revenue-constrained optimal combination of tariff and duty drawback for a given revenue level is not unique. Second, we show that if the optimal import tariff rates are all positive when the duty drawback rate is zero, then the optimal import tariff rates are always positive when the duty drawback is positive.

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Asymmetric Decentralization, Intergovernmental Transfers, and Expenditure Policies of Local Governments
Yongyou Li
Front. Econ. China    2018, 13 (2): 223-248.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-007-018-0014-1
Abstract   PDF (399KB)

Although China’s asymmetric fiscal decentralization system has been criticized for many years, there have been few studies giving direct evidence of its negative incentives on local government spending policies. By introducing the mechanism of asymmetric decentralization and fiscal transfers to the objective function of local government, this paper studies the incentive effects of asymmetric decentralization and fiscal transfers on spending policies of local governments, and uses the provincial panel data to carry out an empirical test. The conclusion shows that the asymmetric decentralization significantly weakens the incentives of local government to increase social expenditure, and as a solution to asymmetric decentralization, fiscal transfers fail to play a good role. Due to the relatively large income effect, the financing mechanism of fiscal transfers not only significantly reduces the incentives of local government to provide social public goods, but also weakens the constraint effect of fiscal competition on expenditure policies of local governments because of the increase in the relative cost. Although the distribution mechanism of fiscal transfers has a significant positive incentive to local government in regions where the net inflow of fiscal resources is more than zero, because of common pooling effects, the comprehensive effects of fiscal transfers in the distribution of incentives of local governments to provide social public goods are negative in all regions.

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Decision Making and Ability: An Explanation of Elitism in China’s Government
Shiqiang Li
Front. Econ. China    2017, 12 (4): 635-659.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-006-017-0026-8
Abstract   PDF (471KB)

This article tries to explain elitism in China’s governmental decision making. Our model shows that the governments’ expected utility increases with a bureaucrat’s ability to make decisions under the flexible framework of delegation and communication (with separated reporting strategy). In the early of 1950s, China’s government choose a flexible decision making framework in order to efficiently manage many affairs in a complex environment. This initial choice started the process of a self-reinforcing demand for ability inside of the flexible decision making framework. With the current reforms of streamlining administrations and retreating from the market, the elitism of China’s government might reverse.

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Free-Trade Agreements in a Model of Trade, Migration and Politics
John Douglas Wilson, Ilkay Yilmaz
Front. Econ. China    2018, 13 (1): 15-31.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-007-018-0003-7
Abstract   PDF (402KB)

This paper uses a probabilistic voting model to investigate voting for a free-trade agreement between a labor-abundant country and a capital-abundant country. Migration from the labor-abundant country to the capital-abundant country increases the probability of a free-trade agreement, with lower migration costs leading to more migration and a higher free-trade probability. On the other hand, if a lower probability of free trade is caused by an increased voter bias against free-trade candidates, then there is less migration. A dynamic extension of the model is also investigated.

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An Overlapping-Generations Model of Firm Heterogeneity in Economic Development
Yu Chen, Haiwen Zhou
Front. Econ. China    2017, 12 (4): 660-676.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-006-017-0027-5
Abstract   PDF (323KB)

We study firm heterogeneity in economic development in an overlapping-generations general equilibrium model in which manufacturing firms engage in oligopolistic competition. Individuals differ in their productivities in the manufacturing sector and choose to become entrepreneurs or workers. The model is surprisingly tractable. In the steady state, an increase in the entry barrier in the manufacturing sector or an increase in the percentage of income spent on the agricultural good decreases the wage rate, but the level of output in the manufacturing sector does not necessarily decrease. An increase in the degree of patience of an individual increases the steady state wage rate and the capital stock. Even with increasing returns in manufacturing and constant returns in agriculture, neither the wage rate nor the output level in the manufacturing sector may increase with population size.

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Does the Entrepreneurship of the Parents Affect the Opportunities of their Offspring’s Entrepreneurship? Empirical Analysis Based on the CGSS 2010–2013 Data
Yongmei Hu, Yun Xing
Front. Econ. China    2018, 13 (2): 196-222.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-007-018-0013-4
Abstract   PDF (670KB)

The whole society is paying close attention to “entrepreneurship,” which urges researchers to find an explanatory perspective relatively independent and with causality on the intergenerational transfer of entrepreneurship. Based on the data of the Chinese General Social Survey (short for CGSS) during the years 2010–2013, this paper analyzes how parents’ entrepreneurship affects the probability of their offspring’s entrepreneurship, and the results show that compared with the offspring of parents who did not start their own business, those whose parents did are more likely to choose to start their own business. In view of historical facts such as the “lay-off wave” during China’s transformation into a market economy, we use “the annual number of unemployed back to work,” a provincial-level indicator, in the 1990s as an instrumental variable to correct possible endogenous problems. We find that parents’ entrepreneurship has significant positive effects on the probability of their offspring’s entrepreneurship, which may result from the informal transfer of human capital and wealth from parents to their offspring.

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Involuntary Unemployment: An Expository Note
Henry Y. Wan Jr.
Front. Econ. China    2018, 13 (1): 83-92.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-007-018-0007-5
Abstract   PDF (738KB)

This note is an effort to view the research program of Brecher and his co-workers to deploy tax incentives against involuntary unemployment in the broader context; on both the equity-efficiency trade-off in political economy, and the dual economic structure in the theoretic foundations of market equilibrium.

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Can a Government Initiate Enterprise Reform to Improve Efficiency? A Cross-Section Analysis of the Chinese Pharmaceutical Industry
Ying Chu Ng, Suthathip Yaisawarng
Front. Econ. China    2017, 12 (4): 607-634.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-006-017-0025-1
Abstract   PDF (4456KB)

This paper examines the effects of state-owned enterprises (SOE) privatization, implemented by the Chinese government in the 1990s, on enterprise efficiency for a sample of non-privatized SOEs and privatized ex-SOEs. The study calculates input-oriented DEA meta-frontier efficiency scores, after accounting for heterogeneity in technology across groups. These scores are used to test whether or not one group’s technology dominates the other. A measure of additional input saving is also provided if these enterprises have access to unrestricted meta-technology. The analysis of the Chinese pharmaceutical industry reveals that privatization has not improved enterprise efficiency, at least in the short run. Almost 56% of inputs could be proportionally saved if these privatized ex-SOEs had been efficient, relative to the meta-production technology while non-privatized SOEs could proportionally save only 51%. Privatized ex-SOEs had less ability to access to meta-technology. This finding could be explained by subsequent observations that China, at the time of our analysis, did not have well-established intellectual property rights and formal drug approval procedures; these two factors are important driving forces for developing joint ventures with foreign investors to gain additional capital funding and technology transfer. Broadly speaking, our results are consistent with the subsequent shakeup in the Chinese pharmaceutical industry.

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Agricultural Roots in Intergenerational Transfers in China
Yan Liu, Qingqing Zong
Front. Econ. China    2018, 13 (2): 249-280.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-007-018-0015-8
Abstract   PDF (376KB)

Economists have been interested in the motivations of intergenerational transfers, for different motivations affect the effectiveness of anti-poverty public transfers. However, one’s motivation is largely shaped by culture and social conventions. This paper sheds light on the influence of rice cultivation in intergenerational transfers in China. This is also the first time that economists consider cultural factors in the study of intergenerational transfers. Cultivating rice requires elaborate irrigation systems and large amounts of labor input so that rice farmers have to cooperate extensively with their neighbors, which has gradually shaped people’s value to be more inter-dependent. Based on micro-level data from CHARLS and sub-national rice data from China, our empirical results show strong evidence that individuals from rice regions are more likely to provide economic support for their parents. A one-percentage point increase in the share of rice in the total grain planting area will raise transfer incidence by 0.2–0.4 percentage points, and rice region residents transfer on average 300–400 yuan more in 2011 and about 1,000 yuan more in 2013 to their parents than those from wheat regions. Meanwhile they are more inclined to rely on their adult children for elderly support. Urban citizens are less affected. Using instrumental variable estimation, we are able to prove the effect is causal. With future continued deepening of population aging in China, relying on children for old age support may become more and more unrealistic, the government needs to coordinate the relationship between public transfer and private transfer to ensure the quality of life for the elderly.

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Does Over-credit Stimulate Corporate Investment? Evidence from Listed Companies in China
Yuying Jin, Dong Zhao
Front. Econ. China    2018, 13 (2): 281-311.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-007-018-0016-5
Abstract   PDF (695KB)

We define and quantify for the first time over-credit at the firm level, which refers to the case in which the amount of bank credit that a firm obtains exceeds its expenditure on corporate investment for the year. Then, we explore how over-credit affects corporate investment to determine whether credit expansion in China is consistent with the principle of finance serving the real economy. The results show that over-credit promotes firm investment, and this effect was enhanced by the housing boom. However, the effect of the property market reversed after 2012, owing to China’s economic transition from a quantitative to a structural mismatch between supply and demand. Finally, we explore how over-credit affects the capacity utilization ratio and whether it has aggravated the overcapacity problem in China. The results show that over-credit reduces firms’ capacity utilization ratio. This finding indicates that excessive credit expansion has exacerbated the overcapacity problem in China.

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Urbanization in China, ca. 1100–1900
Yi Xu, Bas van Leeuwen, Jan Luiten van Zanden
Front. Econ. China    2018, 13 (3): 322-368.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-007-018-0018-9
Abstract   PDF (882KB)

This paper presents new estimates of the development of the urban population and the urbanization ratio for the period spanning the Song and late Qing dynasties. Urbanization is viewed, as in much of the economic historical literature on the topic, as an indirect indicator of economic development and structural change. The development of the urban system can therefore tell us a lot about long-term trends in the Chinese economy between 1100 and 1900. During the Song, the level of urbanization was high, also by international standards—the capital cities of the Song were probably the largest cities in the world. This remained so until the late Ming, but during the Qing there was a downward trend in the level of urbanization from 11%–12% to 7% in the late 18th century, a level at which it remained until the early 1900s. In our paper we analyse the role that socio–political and economic causes played in this decline, such as the changing character of the Chinese state, the limited impact of overseas trade on the urban system, and the apparent absence of the dynamic economic effects that were characteristic for the European urban system.

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Who Defended Monetary Stability in a Specie Regime? Evidence from the Chinese History
Sheng Qian, LeminWu
Front. Econ. China    2018, 13 (3): 397-435.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-007-018-0020-0
Abstract   PDF (3345KB)

Despite the lack of political accountability, ancient autocracies maintained a level of monetary stability that rivals modern democracies. This paper hypothesizes that it is the threat of counterfeiting that has constrained currency debasement. Unwilling to share seigniorage with counterfeiters, who are active only if currency is debased, the government refrains from debasement unless in extreme fiscal situations. To document the facts, we build a database of historical Chinese copper coins that covers the period from the Qin dynasty (221 BC–207 BC) to the Republic of China. We also use the introduction of the steam press in late Qing China as a natural experiment to test the theory. The steam press produced coins of fine patterns that counterfeiters were unable to mimic. As the theory predicts, the removal of the threat of counterfeiting triggered the most serious debasement in the history of the Qing dynasty (1644–1912).

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A Multi-Layer System and Its Features: Reconceptualizing the Monetary Regime of Late Qing and Modern China
Hongzhong Yan, Zhijian Qiao, Chen Xu
Front. Econ. China    2018, 13 (3): 436-457.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-007-018-0021-7
Abstract   PDF (565KB)

This essay aims to reconceptualize the monetary regime of late Qing and modern China as a multilayer system of currencies and examine the features and logics of its operation from the 16th century to early 20th century. We argue that this system consists of a variety of silver and copper currencies, each occupying a particular layer in the structure and each satisfying a specific market demand. Analyzing the production and circulation of copper and silver currencies, we first trace their evolution from the Qing to the Republican era and demonstrate the multi-layer currency structure persisted in China across the modernizing changes that took place at the end of the 19th century. Second, using data drawn from gazetteers, this essay adopts a quantitative approach to empirically examine the mechanism and speed of interactions between the different layers of the monetary market and reveal the operational mechanism of the multi-layer system. We suggest that this multi-layer system, while bringing some efficiency loss, also constituted an effective institutional arrangement that helped to ensure the stability of the Chinese economy in tumultuous times.

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Surviving Unstable Property Rights in Early Modern China: A Case Study of Young Brother Bank
Jinsong Zhao, Hao Pang
Front. Econ. China    2018, 13 (3): 505-530.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-007-018-0024-8
Abstract   PDF (855KB)

China’s banking industry experienced rapid growth during the free access era from 1911 to 1927. However, the reasons private banks were so successful then remain unclear, particularly when property rights were not well protected due to government intervention. Using archived Young Brother Bank documents, we describe the bank’s development from its founding as a family firm through its reinvention from a partnership into a corporation. We focus on organizational form choice and bank performance in this case study. We find that bankers in early modern China gain political connections by placing influential nonfamily members (often, acquisitive local warlords) on boards of directors because this protects them from the depredations of those warlords. This is a precondition for operating family businesses in unstable political circumstances.

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Usury, Market Power and Poverty Traps: A Study of Rural Credit in 1930s’ China
Zhiwu Chen, Kaixiang Peng, Weipeng Yuan
Front. Econ. China    2018, 13 (3): 369-396.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-007-018-0019-6
Abstract   PDF (478KB)

This paper studies the cross-regional variation of interest rates in China in the 1930s. Based on county-level data from the Buck (1941) rural surveys, we examine factors that may have influenced rural interest rates in pre-1949 China. Since the quality of institutions that define property rights and facilitate contract enforcement is important for such transactions as land tenancy arrangements, we treat land tenancy rate (or percentage of owner-farmers) as a proxy for institutional quality. Contrary to the popular belief among historians and economists that usury or high interest rates caused persistent poverty, we find that while the monopoly-exploitation hypothesis has little explanatory power, a region’s institutional quality and income level are persistent and significant determinants of interest rates. Thus, poverty is a key driver of high rates of interest. Economic growth and the development of market institutions are crucial for lowering high interest rates and combating usury.

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How Did the Chinese Shanxi Merchants Determine the Remittance Fees? Micro Firm Analysis of Rishengchang Piaohao
Meng Wu
Front. Econ. China    2018, 13 (3): 484-504.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-007-018-0023-1
Abstract   PDF (428KB)

This paper examines the Chinese Shanxi piaohao, arguably the most important Chinese indigenous financial institutions in the 19th century. Concentrating on their business strategy, the study constructs a unique firm level set of data of the Rishengchang piaohao and explores the piaohao’s types of client, silver and drafts it dealt in, branch distributions, and terms to cash drafts. Besides this, this article also designs multiple linear regressions and identifies elements that determined remittance fees. My study reveals that, when establishing a new branch, the Rishengchang took the consideration of business conditions as its priority and gradually expanded from cities at prefecture level to those in counties and towns. A growth of business sites also led to an increase in the types of client, silver and draft it accepted. Moreover, as it developed, the interval for the Rishengchang to cash a draft shortened by half. When estimating the remittance functions, my study found that as the amount of silver being remitted increased, the length of time to cash a draft extended and as the average distance between two branches increased, the Rishengchang would charge more in remittance fees. “Commoners” and “gentry” would pay more than “firms,” while “other piaohao” would pay lower remittance fees. The drafts sent by telegram would also be much more expensive than those sent by letters or with papers. As the first detailed study on one of the most important and enduring firms in China, this work not only fills the data void where this subject is concerned, but also delineates the historical change of the piaohao’s clients, drafts, business territories and gives profound insights into the rise of the Shanxi piaohao.

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Purchasing Power Parity and Price Fluctuations in China before July 1937
Liuyan Zhao, Yan Zhao
Front. Econ. China    2018, 13 (3): 458-483.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s060-007-018-0022-4
Abstract   PDF (1000KB)

In this paper, we provide an empirical investigation of the purchasing power parity (PPP) hypothesis for China before July 1937. Using the monthly data from 1922 to 1937, we find clear and consistent evidence in favor of the purchasing power parity relationship. This naturally leads to the conclusion that the degree of Chinese market integration with the West was substantial before July 1937. These findings offer an empirical interpretation of the rise and fall of the Chinese price level during the Great Depression. It also has further implications of the impact of the American Silver Purchase Act of 1934 and the assessment of the 1935 currency reform on the Chinese economy.

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