It appears to be common knowledge that external financing in China is mostly limited to state-owned firms and is hard to obtain for smaller private firms. In this paper we first confirm this pattern for more recent data and then investigate ways in which private firms overcome their financing constraints. We find that private firms reduce their need for external funds through more efficient management of inventory levels and accounts receivable. We further show that the low levels of inventories and accounts receivable in Chinese private firms are not below efficient levels and are unlikely to be a hindrance to their efficient operations. Instead, these low levels of working capital seem to be correlated with higher financial returns as well as higher productivity. We conclude that while limited access to external financing may limit the growth of private sector in the medium and long run, in the short run the lean operating budget may be contributing to Chinese private firms’ efficiency.