This paper attempts to explain how institutions in the reform era of China have evolved by looking into the FDI policies and regulations. As history matters, we don’t look solely into the previous direct stage to the reform era, and rather look into a longer history starting from prior to the 14th century. The study shows that a dimension of time is crucial to understand institutional change in China. Though the initiation of the open-door policy in the reform era is commonly regarded as path-break event, we claim that this institutional change is a path dependent event from a longer historical view. The path takes a zigzag that is shaped by interaction among interested parties: the central government, local governments and economic agents (foreign investors in terms of the open-door policies). The historical study shows that mutual needs and their behaviours influence their attitudes which further influence institutional building. This also further implies how Chinese institutions may evolve in the future and what we should concern more about institutional changes in transitional economies.

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ERIM Report Series Research in Management
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

Zhang, X., Krug, B., & Reinmoeller, P. (2004). Historical Attitudes and Implications for path dependence: FDI development and Institutional changes in China (No. ERS-2004-112-ORG). ERIM Report Series Research in Management. Retrieved from