The role of township-owned enterprises in the rapid growth of the Chinese economy during reform is widely acknowledged. Beginning in the mid-1990s, however, these firms began to be privatized. Perhaps the most striking feature of this process is that it has not occurred uniformly across townships. This raises the simple question: When and why do government leaders privatize? Drawing on a unique data set we collected in the summers of 1998 and 2000, this paper provides a simple theoretical and empirical investigation into this question. We focus on the effect of bank liquidity and bank objectives in determining the value of the firm in the event of privatization. We consider how bank decisions interact with those of governmental leaders and firm managers and ultimately determine the attractiveness of privatization. We also analyze the conditions under which shutdown might be preferred to privatization as a method to divest of government-owned firms. We find that this simple model of the privatization decision yields insights which can be tested with this unique data set.
privatization, township and village enterprises, financial institutions,
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