State-Owned Enterprises in Chinese Economic Transformation: Institutional Functionality and Credibility in Alternative Perspectives
Journal of Economic Issues, 2020, vol. 54, issue 3, 813-837
The institutions of China’s state-owned enterprises have deviated fundamentally from the principle of individual(istic) property rights. The paradox is that the enterprises appear to have performed well in terms of productivity and profitability. This article examines the institutions in the light of alternative theoretical perspectives. The central message is two-fold. First, regarding functionality, the long-term oriented institutions could be conducive to productive efficiency but could also be detrimental to allocative efficiency. Second, regarding credibility, the actual performance hinges on the appropriate match between the institutions and the broader developmental conditions. The efficiency attributes are thus found to be context-specific. Further discussion on the notion of context-specificity reveals that relative efficiency is conjunctural rather than structural in the determination of the functionality and credibility. In the spirit of Original Evolutionary and Institutional Economics, it is submitted that the attributes of relative efficiency are themselves subject to the particular “social valuation” of China’s prevailing political-economic conditions.
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