中文 / English
THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF YINGYI QIAN AND CHENGGANG XU TO ECONOMIC

THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF YINGYI QIAN AND CHENGGANG XU TO ECONOMIC

SCIENCE IN CHINA.


GÉRARD ROLAND

E. Morris Cox Professor of Economics and

Professor of Political Science

University of California, Berkeley


Yingyi Qian and Chenggang Xu are the two most prominent senior economists to have studied economic reforms and transition from central planning to market in the context of China. Their research published in top journals and in major scientific outlets has shaped the profession’s understanding of the transition processes in Chin compared to Eastern Europe, why it was different, and also why it was more successful. Their research also led to provide explanations for the growth miracle that has taken place in China since the beginning of economic reforms after 1978. These are original explanations base on economic thinking based in institutional economics. These explanations now form the consensus view in top universities about the main reasons for China’s growth miracle. They also shed light on developments in recent years and help us better understand the fundamentals of the Chinese economy.

 

Yingyi Qian and Chenggang Xu were among the very first Chinese students to enter into Harvard economic department’s Ph.D program. They studied under the supervision of famous microeconomic theorist (2007 Nobel prize laureate ) Eric Maskin and famous theorist of the socialist economic system Janos Kornai. This combination of interests provided very fertile ground for research that proved fundamental in understanding China’s transition.

 

Both Qian and Xu have a very full CV. We will only focus on some of their contributions that have passed best the test of time, and that are fundamental to understand China’s reforms.

 

In a very early article published in Economics of Transition (1993), Qian and Xu made a surprising analogy between the theory of the firm and the organization of central planning. They found that the famous distinction made by Alfred Chandler and Oliver Williamson between the M-form (M for multi-divisional) and U-form (U for unitary) applied fully to the comparison between the organizational forms China (M form) and the Soviet Union (U form) inherited from central planning. They draw detailed comparisons of this difference.

 

This early work led to research that produced two important papers , one with Eric Maskin (“ Incentives, Information and Organizational Form” , Review of Economic Studies 2000) and one with Gerard Roland ( “Coordination and Experimentation in the M form and U form Organization”, Journal of Political Economy, 2006).

 

The paper with Maskin shows that the M form (territorial organization of government) in China made it much easier to organize yardstick competition than the U form (sectoral organization of government) because the former gave more easily comparable measures of performance than the latter. In other words, comparing growth in one province with growth in another province gives a less noisy comparison of performance than comparing say growth of the steel sector with that of agriculture. Their model shows that when this is the case, the optimal incentives for yardstick competition will be stronger under the M form organization. They showed that conditional variances of shocks in Chinese industry were smaller when one aggregated based on territory than on sector. They also showed that provinces that did better in relative performance evaluation than others also got to have a better representation in the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This was the first paper to highlight the fundamental importance of meritocracy and relative performance evaluation as a fundamental driver of growth performance in China, a key factor to understand the growth miracle in China. This generated a whole literature on meritocracy and the extent to which growth performance, as well as other measures of performance, play a role in the promotion of cadres in the hierarchy of power (party and government) in China. The role of meritocracy in China’s growth performance over the last decades is central in the frontier economic research on China.

 

The paper with Roland shows that the M form organization makes it much easier to organize local reform experiments that are not too costly to reverse if they fail and that can be popularized and diffused if successful. Building partly on an earlier paper by Dewatripont and Roland (American Economic Review 1995) on the optimal speed and sequencing of reforms under aggregate uncertainty, the paper shed new light on why experimentation, and especially local experimentation, was used much more widely in China than in Eastern Europe. It also shed light on the difference between the experimental approach to reforms in China, initially called gradualism, and the big bang comprehensive approach in Eastern Europe. China’s organization of government, already under central planning was based on territorial principles whereas the Soviet Union’s organization of government was based on sectoral principles. China’s M form organization of government based on territorial subdivisions made it much easier to experiment locally as local leaders concentrated all the local powers necessary to run such experiments. The success of the special economic zones is the best known example of this, but there are many more, including policies of enterprise restructuring in the 1990s. In contrast, the U form organization of government that existed in the Soviet Union made it impossible for local authorities to organize reform experiments as policies needed to be coordinated with the sectoral ministries and agencies at the central level. It is no exaggeration to state that the experimental approach to reforms has been central to economic transition in China. This paper not only explains with a simple formal model the advantages of the experimental approach but also explains why it was successful in the Chinese context.

 

Another pillar of China’s successful transition has been decentralization of government. Qian and Xu have again been pioneers in explaining its role in the reform process. Several contributions need to he highlighted here.

 

In several papers coauthored with Barry Weingast and other co-authors (summarized in Qian and Weingast “Federalism as a Commitment to Preserving Market Incentives”, Journal of Economic Perspectives 1997, Qian has showed how decentralization of government in China aligned the incentives of local leaders with that of economic growth. A key feature of the first two decades of Chinese transition is the fiscal decentralization arrangements. Provincial leaders were to transfer to the Center a certain amount of tax revenues, either as a lump sum or as a share of revenues, and were allowed to keep additional revenues. With lump sum transfers, the marginal revenue retention for provincial authorities was 100%, but even with shared revenues the marginal retention rate for provincial governments was very high (above 70%). Moreover, these fiscal arrangements were at the time relatively credible and the correlation between local raising of revenues and local expenditures was very strong. Combined with the fact that local leaders usually have better information about local conditions than central leaders, this fiscal arrangement gave provincial leaders incentives to maximize the tax base in the long run, which meant maximizing growth. Fiscal arrangements thus gave provincial leaders incentives that were aligned with the objective of maximizing growth. Note that since the nineties, fiscal decentralization has mostly been undone. Whether or not to go back to more fiscal decentralization is a big policy issue in China.

 

Xu produced a remarkable synthesis of the reform process ( “The Fundamental Institutions of China’s Reforms and Development” Journal of Economic Literature 2011) that explains in a comprehensive way the effects of decentralization on the reform process and its interaction with meritocracy and incentives for promotion. In a nutshell, promotion incentives and yardstick competition led local leaders to want to maximize growth. Fiscal decentralization gave them the tools and authority at the local level to reach that objective. Xu’s paper is highly cited (610 Google citations for a paper published only in 2011) and is currently considered the consensus view on China’s reform process.

 

Both Qian and Xu also made important contributions to the literature on soft budget constraints. In a joint paper (“Innovation and Bureaucracy under Soft and hard Budget Constraints” Review of Economic Studies 1998), they show that innovation in large organizations leads to soft budget constraints whereas in a decentralized setup, hard budget constraints are the norm. Therefore, centralized organizations will do more ex ante screening of innovations since they know that bad projects will be refinanced. This leads to too strict screening of innovations under centralization and to more dynamic innovation under the decentralized market mechanism. This can be seen as an explanation for why innovation was weak under socialism and why it is strong under capitalism.

 

Both have also contributed to the political economy analysis of China’s transition and more generally to issues of institutions in the context of Chinese transition. Qian, in a paper with Lau and Roland (“Reform without Losers: An Interpretation of China’s dual-track approach to transition” Journal of Political Economy 2000) showed how the mechanism of dual-track price liberalization implemented in China had very favorable political economy features. Indeed, the dual track system allows by design to achieve efficiency gains of market allocation without hurting the welfare of any economic agents. The reason is that the maintain of the plan track protects existing rents agents may have had under planning while the addition of the market track creates additional welfare gains on the market both on the demand and on the supply side. Another important property of dual track liberalization is that it prevents an aggregate output fall from the disruptions created by the abrupt elimination of the planning system. China was the only country to liberalize its prices by the dual-track method, It was also the only transition country to have avoided an output fall associated to price liberalization. Xu’s Journal of Economic Literature paper does a masterful synthesis of institutions in post-Mao China and relates them to imperial institutions, showing a striking continuity.

 

Overall, both famous researchers have played a leading role in understanding the main economic issues of China’s reform and transition as well as its growth miracle since 1978. They have paved the way for new generations of scholars to study the Chinese economy and its role in today’s world.

 

 

美国加州大学伯克利分校GÉRARD ROLAND

教授评价2016中国经济学奖得主(中文)

 

杰拉德·罗兰

E. Morris Cox经济学教授,政治学教授

加州大学伯克利分校

 

2016年中国经济学奖颁给清华大学钱颖一教授和长江商学院许成钢教授,得到广泛赞誉。他们的合作者及好友,加州大学伯克利分校GÉRARD ROLAND教授特撰写文章,评价并分享钱颖一教授和许成钢教授对中国经济科学所做出的贡献。

 


钱颖教授和教授是两位杰出的高级经济学家。以中国背景,研究中国中央经济向市场经济过经济改革。他表于顶级期刊和主要科学出版物中,影响了学中国的程、中国相欧之差异、中国的什么更成功的理解。钱颖教授教授的研究也解1978经济改革后中国的增奇迹。些独到的解源自基于制度经济学的经济思想,如今已成为顶尖学府解释中国增长奇迹的共识。他们二位也探讨了中国近年来的发展,帮助我们更好的了解中国经济的基本情况。


钱颖一教授和许成刚教授是第一批完成哈佛经济学博士课程的中国学生,师从著名的微观经济理论家(2007年诺贝尔奖获得者)埃里克·马斯金(Eric Maskin)及社会主义经济制度的著名理论学家雅诺什·科尔奈(Janos Kornai)。这种有趣的组合研究中国转型的基本内容沃土。


钱颖一教授和许成刚教授履历丰富。我谨在此重点简述他们弥经时间考验的贡献和理解中国改革的根本研究。


在发表于《转型经济学》(Economics of Transition1993)中的早期论文中,他们别具一格地用公司理论类比计划经济的组织结构。钱教授和许教授发现,阿尔弗雷德·钱德勒(Alfred Chandler)和奥利弗·威廉姆森(Oliver Williamson)提出的著名的M型结构(指多元结构)和U型结构(指一元结构)的区别完全适用于比较中国(M型)和苏联(U型)的沿革至中央计划经济的组织形式。他们还详细地比较了二者的差异。


这项早期研究被撰写成了两篇重要论文,分别与埃里克·马斯金(Incentives, Information and Organizational FormReview of Economic Studies 2000)及杰拉德·罗兰(“Coordination and Experimentation in the M form and U form Organization”, Journal of Political Economy, 2006)共同撰写。


与马斯金共同的撰写的论文中,两位学者提出,由于M型结构比U型具有更多的可比较测度,因此相较于U型结构(事业性组织政府),M型(地域性组织政府)结构令中国更便于展开标尺竞争。换言之,比较某两个省的增长情况比比较钢铁行业与农业的增长更加简便。他们的模型表示,在这种情况下,M型结构中的标尺竞争具有更强的最优激励。两位学者指出,中国工业基于地域性(而非事业性)聚合,所面临的冲击条件方差较小。研究还认为,绩效表现相对较好的省份在中国共产党中央委员会中也有更高的代表性。这是第一篇突出精英政治的重要意义的论文,也是最早强调相对绩效表现(理解中国增长奇迹的重要因素)作为经济增长的根本驱动力的论文。由此带动了一批关于精英政治的文献,探讨绩效增长及其它绩效的衡量对政治骨干在权利等级(党和政府)中的晋升之影响。在过去几十年中,政治精英在中国的增长绩效中的作用是中国前沿经济研究的核心。


与罗兰共同撰写的论文提出:M型结构更容易组织地方改革经验;如果改革失败,逆转的成本不会太高,如果改革成功,便可以加以普及和推广。论文部分基于迪瓦特里邦特和罗兰(American Economic Review 1995)关于在总量不确定性下的改革的最佳速度和顺序的研究,解释了为什么中国比东欧更为广泛地应用了实验、尤其是地方实验。论文还指出了中国的实验性改革方法(最初被称为渐进主义)和东欧的全面大爆炸式改革的差异。中国原本已处在中央计划经济下,其政府组织基于区域原则,而苏联的政府组织则基于事业原则。中国的M型政府组织基于区域划分,地方政府集中了试验所需的全部地方权力,使得改革试验更加容易。经济特区的成功便是最著名的案例,这样的例子还有很多,包括20世纪90年代企业重组政策。相比之下,苏联的政府结构为U型,由于改革政策需要与中央一级的各行业部委及机构协调,地方政府就无法组织改革试验。毫不夸张地说,试验式的改革方法是中国经济过渡的核心。本篇论文不仅用简洁正规的模型解释了实验式方法的优点,而且解释了它为何能在中国的环境中取得了成功。


中国成功过渡的另一个支柱是政府的权力下放。钱颖一教授和许成刚教授是研究权力下放在改革进程中之作用的先驱,做出了数项贡献。


在与巴里·温加斯特Barry Weingast及其它几位学者合著的几篇论文中(摘要于论文Qian and Weingast “Federalism as a Commitment to Preserving Market Incentives”, Journal of Economic Perspectives 1997钱颖一指出,中国政府的权利下放为地方领导者提供了经济增长的激励。财政分权中国经济转型20年中一个关键特点。省级政府需要向中央缴纳一定数额的税收收入作为一次性总付税或收入分成,允许保留额外收入。缴纳一次性总付税时,省政府的边际收入保留率为100%,即便是缴纳收入分成,省政府的保留率也非常高(高于70%。另外,这种财政政策在当时相对可靠,地方收入的提高和地方支出之间的相关性非常强。加上地方领导人通常比中央领导人更了解当地情况,这样的财政安排就能够激励省级政府最大限度地增加长期税基,即最大限度地增长。因此,财政政策给予省级领导的激励与最大限度增长的目标相一致。值得注意的是,自从90年代以来,财政分权已经大部分被撤销。是否回归深化财政分权是中国的一项重大政策问题。


许成刚教授对中国的改革进程做出了精彩的总结(“The Fundamental Institutions of China’s Reforms and Development” Journal of Economic Literature 2011),全面地解释了权利下放对改革进程的影响、其与精英主义的相互作用及其对提拔晋升的激励。简而言之,晋升激励和标尺竞争使得地方领导者希望最大限度地提高增长。财政分权给予他们在地方一级实现这一目标的工具和权威。许成刚的论文被广泛引用(这篇发表于2011年的论文已有610Google引用),并被视为是对中国改革进程的共识。


钱颖一教授和许成刚教授也对软预算约束的研究做出了重要的文献贡献。在一篇合著论文("Innovation and Bureaucracy under Soft and Hard Budget Constraints Review of Economic Studies 1998)中他们指出,大型组织中的创新带来软预算约束,而在权利下放的环境下,硬预算约束是常态。由于集中化的组织知道不良项目会被再融资,他们会更多地对创新进行事前筛选。这就导致集权下对创新的过分严格的筛选,而在权利下放的市场机制下创新则更具活力。这可以解释为什么创新在社会主义下孱弱,而在资本主义下旺盛。


颖一教授和许成刚教授都对中国的过渡的政治经济学分析以及中国过渡背景下更为广泛的制度问题作出了贡献。在一篇与刘遵义(Lau及罗兰合著的论文(“Reform without Losers: An Interpretation of China’s dual-track approach to transition” Journal of Political Economy 2000)中钱颖一教授解释,在中国施行的双轨价格自由化机制有着非常有利的政治经济特征。的确,双轨机制的设计能够实现市场分配的效率增益,而不会伤害任何经济主体的利益。这是因为保留计划轨道可以保护计划经济下原有的租金主体,而市场轨道为供需两侧创造了额外的福利收益。双轨机制自由化的另一个重要重要特征是:防止因突然消除计划经济系统而造成的总产出下降。中国是唯一一个通过通过双轨方法实现自由化的国家,也是唯一一个在过渡中避免了价格自由化带来产量下降的国家。许成刚教授发表在《经济学文献杂志》(Journal of Economic Literature)中论文对后毛泽东时代的中国体制进行了出色的总结,并将其与帝国主义体制相联系,展现出惊人的连续性。


总而言之,这两位著名的学者为了解中国改革和过渡的主要经济课题及1978年后增长奇迹发挥了领军作用,为新一代学者研究中国经济及其在当今世界的影响铺平了道路。

 

 

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