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Gold into Base Metals: Productivity Growth in the People’s Republic of China during the Reform Period

University of Chicago

With minimal sleight of hand, it is possible to transform the recent growth experience of the People’s Republic of China from the extraordinary into the mundane. Systematic understatement of inflation by enterprises accounts for 2.5 percent growth per year in the nonagricultural economy during the first two decades of the reform period (1978–98). The usual suspects (i.e., rising participation rates, improvements in educational attainment, and the transfer of labor out of agriculture) account for most of the remainder. The productivity performance of the nonagricultural economy during the reform period is respectable but not outstanding. To the degree that the reforms have improved efficiency, these gains may lie principally in agriculture.