Economic Miracle and Upward Accountability: A Preliminary Evaluation of the Chinese Style of Fiscal Decentralization

Alfred M. Wu


There has been a growing interest in investigating the impact of Chinese-style fiscal decentralization in recent years. Some speculate that fiscal decentralization in China has led to the country’s phenomenal economic growth. Chinese-style fiscal decentralization has evolved greatly over the past three decades. Asymmetric decentralization—expenditure remains decentralized with revenue being recentralized—replaced genuine decentralization in 1994 and resulted in a sea-change in central-local fiscal relations in China. Drawing on a close examination of the evolution of fiscal decentralization, this article suggests that upward accountability resulting from asymmetric decentralization and other factors has contributed to spectacular economic growth in China. Negative consequences of an assertive central government associated with asymmetric decentralization have also been investigated. The article argues that the Chinese government needs an institutional framework to rein in predatory behaviors of both the central government and local governments with an increasingly urbanized and globalized society in China.


fiscal decentralization

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