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China’s Special Economic Zones and Industrial Clusters

Success and Challenges

Douglas Zhihua Zeng

Julio 2013, inglés

In the past 30 years, China has achieved phenomenal economic growth, an unprecedented development “miracle” in human history. How did China achieve this rapid growth? What have been its key drivers? And, most important, can China sustain the incredible success? While policy makers, business people, and scholars continue to debate these topics, one thing is clear: the numerous special economic zones and industrial clusters that emerged after the country’s reforms are without doubt two important engines of China’s remarkable development. The special economic zones and industrial clusters have made crucial contributions to China’s economic success. Foremost, the special economic zones (especially the first several) successfully tested the market economy and new institutions and became role models for the rest of the country to follow. Together with the numerous industrial clusters, the special economic zones have contributed significantly to gross domestic product, employment, exports, and attraction of foreign investment. The special economic zones have also played important roles in bringing new technologies to China and in adopting modern management practices. However, after 30 years’ development, they also face many significant challenges in moving forward.

This study briefly summarizes the development experiences of China’s special economic zones and industrial clusters (their formation, success factors, challenges, and possible areas or measures for policy intervention), based on case studies, interviews, field visits, and extensive reviews of the existing literature in an attempt to benefit other developing countries as well as the broader development community.

Keywords: People’s Republic of China, Development, Economic Development, Globalization, Public Policy