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Institution Building and Change in China

  • Economics
  • Political Science


We advance a conceptual frame for explaining economic transformation in China that combines a dynamic and a comparative perspective by taking the analysis of Fiscal Federalism one step further. Using insights from the comparative business systems literature we show that devolution of power at the beginning of the reform process introduced local autonomy, which stimulated a diversity of local regulatory regimes. As the central political leadership is no longer the sole supplier of institutional change, local governments become equal contributors to the formation of local business systems. Yet, local governments only partially define emerging local business systems. Local governance at the enterprise level is defined by the interaction between political and economic entrepreneurship, or, phrased in institutional terms, local business systems emerge from the interplay between the formal architecture of local autonomy and the informal institution of networking. In a comparative perspective this interaction, and its underlying driving forces for co-operation, namely: procedural uncertainty, relational risk and institutional change, will lead to diversity in outcomes. In a dynamic perspective both market competition and networking will ensure further competition between business systems, while political unification, imitation or scale economies will ask for convergence of local business systems beyond the local nexus.

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