Household savings in China are high by international standards, and the young save as much or more than the middle-aged – a fact at odds with the standard life-cycle savings model. This column argues that neither old-age support by the middle-aged nor the one-child policy can satisfactorily explain this phenomenon. Rather, currently high housing costs and the prevalence of inter-generational shared housing are key reasons for the higher savings rates of the urban young in China.
Mark Rosenzweig, Junsen Zhang, 21 May 2014
Yi Huang, Prakash Loungani, Gewei Wang, 16 May 2014
Minimum wages are set to increase in China under the country’s latest five-year plan. This column documents that past increases led to lower employment. However, the impact is heterogeneous. Firms with high average wages or large profit margins actually increase employment, while those with low average wages or small profit margins downsize.
Jeffrey Frankel, 09 May 2014
Many claim that China will soon overtake the US. This column argues that this claim is based on a misuse of statistics. ICP price data is necessary to compare living standards, since a dollar’s worth of yuan buys more in China than a dollar buys in the US. But the fact that rice and clothes are cheap in rural China does not make the Chinese economy larger. What matters for size in the world economy is how much a yuan can buy on world markets. Using the correct prices, the US remains the world’s largest economic power by a substantial margin.
Ataman Aksoy, Francis Ng, 03 May 2014
Developing countries gained significant market shares in both industrial and developing countries throughout the 1990s and 2000s. This column highlights that China accounts for more than 70% of market share gains by developing countries in both industrial and developing countries during the 2000s. Recent increases in the industrial capabilities and competitiveness of developing countries can thus be considered predominantly a Chinese affair.
John Whalley, Chunding Li, 05 March 2014
After joining the WTO in 2001, China has entered into a number of trade agreements. Those currently in consideration are substantially larger than the initial ones. China, more than any other large economy, needs to attempt to enhance its export growth, which has turned negative in 2013. This column discusses some of China’s trade agreements and summarizes the implemented negotiation strategy. The impact of these trade agreements on China’s economic growth also deserves attention.
Taha Choukhmane, Nicolas Coeurdacier , Keyu Jin, 22 January 2014
Since China is growing rapidly, one might expect Chinese households to borrow against their future income. In fact, Chinese households save 30.5% of their income – compared to about 5% in OECD countries. This column discusses recent research linking the Chinese saving puzzle to China’s one-child policy. The savings rate of households with twins is about 6–7 percentage points lower than that of households with an only child. Demographic factors can explain an estimated 35–45% of the 20 percentage-point rise in China’s household saving rate between 1983 and 2011.
Joshua Aizenman, Yothin Jinjarak, Nancy Marion, 05 January 2014
Before the financial crisis, the world economy was characterised by large and growing current account imbalances. Since the onset of the crisis, the current account imbalances of the US and China have decreased to half their pre-crisis levels. This column highlights the implications of the reduction in the current account surplus for China, and gives policy recommendations. A restructuring of the economy is needed, and reversing of policies that depress consumption and prevent real appreciation.
Richard Freeman, Xiaoying Li, 22 December 2013
Formal contracts are key to enforcing workers’ rights. This column presents evidence that the Labour Contract Law improved worker outcomes in China, especially among migrant and low-wage workers. The proportion of workers with social insurance increased without any significant negative effect on the employment rate.
Fabrizio Zilibotti, 23 December 2013
Fabrizio Zilibotti talks to Viv Davies about his award-winning paper ‘Growing Like China’ (co-authored with Zheng Song, Kjetil Storesletten and Yikai Wang) that addresses the puzzle of the combination of high growth and high return to capital in China with a growing foreign surplus. They also discuss pensions and demographic transition in China, factors that are driving the country’s growth and the country’s future role in the global economy. The interview was recorded on 17 September 2013.
John Gibson, Chao Li, 27 November 2013
Many studies find evidence of a growing income inequality in China. However, the majority of these studies may be constructing biased measures of inequality. This column presents evidence from a new study on how inequality in China is overstated if one ignores the spatial differences in the cost of living. With a booming urban housing market that displays a high degree of heterogeneity, accounting for spatial price differences is essential.
Kyle Handley, Nuno Limão, 23 November 2013
The impact of policy uncertainty on economic activity is potentially important, but controversial because it is hard to identify and quantify. Recent research provides a framework to identify the impacts of policy uncertainty on firm decisions, and finds it has strong effects in the context of international trade. China’s WTO accession secured its most-favoured nation status in the US, and the evidence shows this reduction in uncertainty can explain a significant fraction of its export boom to the US.
Mario Mariniello, 09 November 2013
Since the adoption of the Anti-Monopoly law in 2007, the Chinese competition authorities have stepped up enforcement of mergers and anti-competitive practices. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce has relied heavily on behavioural remedies in merger cases (as opposed to the more efficient structural remedies favoured by the European Commission). Furthermore, merger policy has been used to protect domestic industries from competition. In contrast, Chinese fines for cartels have shown no foreign bias, and if anything have been too low.
Thomas Holmes, Ellen McGrattan, Edward Prescott, 08 November 2013
Why are FDI flows between China and technologically-advanced countries surprisingly small? This column analyses the issue in light of China's quid pro quo policy that makes technology transfer a precondition of foreign firms selling in China. We find that the policy provides significant gains for China, but losses to its FDI partners.
Anders Åslund, 04 September 2013
Emerging markets are under pressure. This column argues that this is not a mere headwind but that the BRICs’ party is over. Their ability to get going again rests on their ability to carry through reforms in grim times for which they lacked the courage in a boom.
Hans Degryse, Liping Lu, Steven Ongena, 21 August 2013
Non-bank financing originating in the shadow banking system has increasingly become an issue for policymakers. This column argues that informal financing has, in fact, been an essential element of corporate performance in China. Through reviewing the interaction between informal and formal financing, evidence suggests that informal financing simultaneously granted with formal financing (co-funding) is helpful for growth, especially for small firms.
Ruixue Jia, Masayuki Kudamatsu, David Seim, 20 August 2013
Despite its economic and political power, details of how China’s leaders are selected are opaque. This column presents new research on how Chinese leaders are selected, suggesting that the Communist Party has avoided selecting loyal and incompetent leaders – typical of autocratic regimes – through a system of job rotation and promotion within the Party. This system has helped pairs of officials build trust by working together, allowing top politicians to choose the most competent among a pool of trustworthy subordinates.
Jeffrey Frankel, 07 August 2013
Can international trade be good for the environment? This column assesses the EU-Chinese anti-dumping dispute in detail, and argues that trade could well be the saviour of solar power. Trade was good for protecting against things like sulphur dioxide, in the case of automobiles, 30 years ago. The same is true of trade in solar equipment today. Westerners should celebrate the contribution of trade to reducing the cost of solar power, not block it with protectionist anti-dumping measures.
Pierre-Philippe Combes, Sylvie Démurger, Li Shi, 17 February 2013
This paper evaluates the role that cities play on individual productivity in China. The authors' results strongly support the productivity gains that can be expected from further migration and urbanisation in China.
Pierre-Philippe Combes, Sylvie Démurger, Li Shi, 09 July 2013
Economic geography typically predicts positive returns to urban scale. This column argues that China faces unprecedented challenges in the face of a new wave of urban migration. Accelerating urbanisation has been and will continue to be – if managed correctly – an opportunity for sustaining economic growth by capturing the benefits from urban agglomeration.
Shang-Jin Wei, 25 June 2013
The Chinese central bank has recently dropped hints that it will quicken the pace of interest-rate reforms, moving towards a more market-determined regime. Will this reduce China’s ‘excessive’ savings and current-account surplus? This column argues that it won’t. While the interest-rate reform may carry many benefits, reducing the country’s current-account surplus is not one of them.