Getting the China story right: Insights from national economic censuses

George C. S. LIN, Zhiyong HU

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Two Hong Kong-based geographers critically interrogate competing interpretations of the nature and dynamics of China's ongoing economic transformation. Based on the data gathered from China's first and second national economic censuses, they examine the pattern and process of ownership transformation in the Chinese economy, focusing on employment, capital assets, and output as well as productivity and industrial innovation. Emphasis is placed on the following critical issues: (1) after three decades of opening, China's national economy continues to be dominated by domestic enterprises (with foreign and overseas Chinese-invested enterprises limited to only a few industrial sectors and highly specific locales); (2) the bulk of capital assets and key large-scale industrial sectors remain in state ownership; and (3) spontaneous, bottom-up privatization of the labor market has occurred without a corresponding privatization of the capital market. In examining these and other issues, the authors argue that the evolving, complex "China story" can be better understood only after abandoning reliance on preconceived theoretical models derived primarily from Western experience. They support their case by first challenging the conventional neoliberal view of privatization as an independent force or predetermined condition, arguing instead that it is conditioned by prevailing social and political influences. Likewise, they posit that rapid expansion of private and individual businesses at the grassroots level has owed more to relaxed state control than to active state involvement envisioned by the thesis of state corporatism. Journal of Economic Literature, Classification Numbers: E22, E23, E24, O11, P20. 8 figures, 6 tables, 87 references. Copyright © 2011 Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)712-746
JournalEurasian Geography and Economics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2011


Lin, G. C. S., & Hu, F. Z. Y. (2011). Getting the China story right: Insights from national economic censuses. Eurasian Geography and Economics, 52(5), 712-746. doi: 10.2747/1539-7216.52.5.712


  • China
  • Economic transformation
  • Transitional economy
  • Ownership structure
  • State-owned enterprises
  • Economic census
  • Privatization
  • Capitalism


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