Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 03/2012

Do Chinese Really Save Too Much? Aspects from Total Factor Productivity Growth in China since 1952

Chong-En Bai, Qiong Zhang

December 2011

Asia-Pacific Research Center


China’s economic growth over the past three decades is unprecedented. Although this growth is commonly attributed to a high domestic savings rate among “thrifty” Chinese, savings alone cannot promote economic growth unless productivity has continuously grown for such a long period. This article uses a one-sector, neoclassical growth model to calibrate the economy to Chinese data since 1952 and finds that measuring changes in total factor productivity between 1952 and 2005 can well capture the secular movements in the Chinese savings rate. Far from supporting the widespread belief that China’s savings rate is too high, this article argues that even thrifty Chinese “under-saved” for most of the years during this period; furthermore, the fiscal reforms of 1983 and 1985 further suppressed saving behavior, especially when initially implemented. In presenting such findings, this article at least partly solves the so-called “Chinese savings puzzle.”