Special economic zones and liberalization avalanches

Lotta Moberg, Vlad Tarko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this study is to show under what conditions a special economic zone will succeed at spurring development and at sparking broader liberalization. Design/methodology/approach: The authors use a combination of formal modeling and case studies. Findings: Most special economic zones fail because of rent-seeking. Successful zones create positive economic and political externalities to other regions. Credible reforms are associated with turning the opposition to the zones into supporters, as a consequence to the positive externalities. Originality/value: The authors add heterogeneity to the model of political elite dynamics, which leads to significant enhancements of the model and removes the pro-centralization bias of the Blanchard and Shleifer's (2001) model. They also criticize Weingast's federalism model as applied to China. Success of China is explained by a different mechanism, which we put forth in this paper.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)120-139
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Entrepreneurship and Public Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 26 2021


  • China
  • Economic reform
  • Federalism
  • Political entrepreneurship
  • Rent-seeking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Urban Studies
  • Strategy and Management


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