Are Central and Western Chinese Provinces Catching up with the East? An Empirical Analysis of Convergence Processes across China

Sch├╝tz, Marlies; Han Li; Palan, Nicole
December 2017
Frontiers of Economics in China;Dec2017, Vol. 12 Issue 4, p571
Academic Journal
Since the Reform and Opening-up policy had been implemented in 1978, mainland China has experienced significant economic growth, with GDP rising on an annual average of about 10%. However, this growth miracle was far from being evenly distributed across space. It is, therefore, the aim of this paper to study the evolution of spatial disparities in economic development across the country between 1993 and 2012, a period which is characterized by all provinces having access to international markets and being open for international investors. We seek to answer the question of whether Central and Western Chinese provinces were catching up with the East. We define 'catching up' as a growing similarity among spatial units. Convergence processes might manifest in four dimensions, including (1) the spatial allocation of employment, value added generation and the fixed capital stock, (2) forms of technical change, (3) productivity patterns, and (4) income distribution. Results show that persistent phases of convergence appeared. However, in some cases the catching up of China's less developed parts with the flourishing East was limited to only a few Western and Central Chinese provinces. A high degree of path-dependency in economic development prevented catching up from taking place in a more uniform manner.


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