The State As a Mediator and Disabler: Economic Openness, Technological Catching-up, and Indigenous Innovation in Chinese Firms
This study contributes to two core theoretical approaches in the literatures of “developmental” states specifically and economic sociology more generally. First, as Evans (1995) suggests, the developmental states must maintain certain degree of “autonomy” while “embedding” themselves in the connections with both the economy and the civil society, so that they can avoid the apprehension of state privileges by private groups and/or political elites. My firm-level evidence demonstrates exactly where such “autonomy” of the state from the economic organizations is missing in the Chinese context and what consequences result from the state’s over-intruding behaviors. Second, one central subject in the economic sociology is to study the mutually constitutive relationship between the state and the economy and especially the critical role of the state in a variety of economic institutions and organizations. In looking at one significant economic activity – FDI-induced technology transfer and innovations, this study identifies specific mechanisms through which the state enables, promotes, mediates, and under some circumstances weakens or disables the channels between FDI-induced technology transfer and local firms’ indigenous innovativeness. For technologically lagging countries, having supportive policies formulated at the macroeconomic level is helpful but certainly not sufficient. In promoting a country’s technological level and perhaps economic growth in general, the state should be willing to act as a good enabler or mediator and at the same time know exactly when and where it should shy away.