Chinese Institutions and Policy Experimentation: The case of Zhongguancun
The nature of institutional change lies at the heart of understanding China’s extraordinary transformation of the past 30 years. This thesis adopts an historical institutionalist approach, emphasising dynamic and path dependent processes, in examining Zhongguancun (ZGC), China’s premier science, technology and innovation zone in Beijing. The analytical framework deals with many of the critical issues of institutional analysis of large-scale economic development and social change: the Chinese experience as radical or gradual change; institutional convergence or divergence; formal and informal institutions; top-down design and bottom-up, spontaneous development. ZGC illustrates the ongoing importance of experimentation in Chinese policy as various institutional innovations have emerged from the zone, both spontaneously and through state-led trial schemes. However, increasing preponderance from the Chinese leadership and the highest state-level institutions may ultimately thwart attempts to turn ZGC into a world-class innovation hub.