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Law, trust and institutional change in China: evidence from qualitative fieldwork

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Chen, D 
Siems, M 


China’s rapid growth in the absence of autonomous legal institutions of the kind found in the west appears to pose a problem for theories which stress the importance of law for economic development. In this article we draw on interviews with lawyers, entrepreneurs and financial market actors to illustrate the complexity of attitudes to contract, corporate and financial law and economic growth in contemporary China. In the case of product markets, we find that business relations are increasingly characterised by a mix of trust-based transacting and legal formality. Financial markets are less like their western counterparts, thanks to the preponderant role of government in asset allocation, and a lack of transparency in market pricing. Overall, China’s experience does not suggest that law is irrelevant or unrelated to growth, but that legal and economic institutions coevolve in the transition from central planning to a market economy.



4801 Commercial Law, 48 Law and Legal Studies, 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

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Journal of Corporate Law Studies

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Taylor & Francis
Economic and Social Research Council (ES/J012491/1)
We gratefully acknowledge funding from the ESRC’s ‘Rising Powers’ Programme (ES/J012491/1).