Growing Like China

56 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2009

See all articles by Zheng Michael Song

Zheng Michael Song

Fudan University - School of Economics

Kjetil Storesletten

University of Oslo - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Fabrizio Zilibotti

University of Zurich; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: January 2009


This paper constructs a growth model that is consistent with salient features of the Chinese growth experience since 1992: high output growth, sustained returns on capital investments, extensive reallocation within the manufacturing sector, falling labor share and accumulation of a large foreign surplus. The theory makes only minimal deviations from a neoclassical growth model. Its building blocks are financial imperfections and reallocation among firms with heterogeneous productivity. Some firms use more productive technologies than others, but low-productivity firms survive because of better access to credit markets. Due to the financial imperfections, high-productivity firms - which are run by entrepreneurs - must be financed out of internal savings. If these savings are sufficiently large, the high-productivity sector outgrows the low-productivity sector, and attracts an increasing employment share. During the transition, low wage growth sustains the return to capital. The downsizing of the financially integrated sector forces a growing share of domestic savings to be invested in foreign assets, generating a foreign surplus. We test some auxiliary implications of the theory and find robust empirical support.

Keywords: China, Economic Growth, Entrepreneurs, Foreign Surplus, Investment, Productivity Heterogeneity, Rate of Return on Capital, Reallocation, State-Owned Firms

JEL Classification: G18, O11, O16, O47, O53, P31

Suggested Citation

Song, Zheng and Storesletten, Kjetil and Zilibotti, Fabrizio, Growing Like China (January 2009). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP7149. Available at SSRN:

Zheng Song

Fudan University - School of Economics ( email )

600 GuoQuan Road
Shanghai, 200433

Kjetil Storesletten (Contact Author)

University of Oslo - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 1095 Blindern
N-0317 Oslo
+47 2284 4009 (Phone)
+47 2285 5035 (Fax)


Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

United Kingdom

Fabrizio Zilibotti

University of Zurich ( email )

Rämistrasse 71
Zürich, CH-8006

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

United Kingdom

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