How do market reforms affect China's responsiveness to environmental policy?

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A large percentage of total investment in China is allocated by the central government at below-market interest rates in pursuit of non-economic objectives. This has resulted in low rates of return and a high number of non-performing loans, threatening the future health of the Chinese economy. As a result, reform of capital markets is a high priority of the Chinese government. At the same time, the country is implementing various environmental policies to deal with serious pollution issues. In this paper we ask how reforms of the capital market will affect the functioning of a carbon tax. This allows us to assess how China's willingness to join global efforts to reduce carbon emissions is influenced by China's current efforts to reduce investment subsidies. We compare the costs of a carbon tax in a reformed economy with the costs of a carbon tax in the current subsidized economy. We find that in the subsidized economy the tax-interaction effect dampens the effect of a carbon tax resulting in smaller reductions in emissions than what would result in a reformed economy. Importantly, we also find that the effect on economic welfare from a carbon tax is lower in the subsidized economy; in fact, for lower levels of reductions, the carbon tax is actually welfare improving. These results have important implications for an economy undergoing economic transition. The carbon tax rate required to achieve a certain level of emission reductions will be higher in an economy with capital subsidies. However, the welfare implications of the tax indicate that the current system with capital subsidies is highly distorting implying that there is a high efficiency cost for the non-economic objectives the government is pursuing by maintaining this system of subsidies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)200-233
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Development Economics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Development
  • Economics and Econometrics


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