The browser you are using is not supported by this website. All versions of Internet Explorer are no longer supported, either by us or Microsoft (read more here:

Please use a modern browser to fully experience our website, such as the newest versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari etc.

Administrative Reforms and the Quest for Foreign Investment in China : The Case of Shenzhen


  • Maria Sönne

Summary, in English

This study examines the attempts made by one local government in China, Shenzhen, to improve its investment environment for foreign-invested enterprises through administrative reforms between 1980 and 1997. Three empirical questions are posed: what reforms have been undertaken, what effects have they had and how have changes in the organizational environment affected them.

The theoretical aim is to contribute to the development of organization theory in general and our knowledge about change in public organizations in particular by combining resource dependence theory and neo-institutional organization theory, and by expanding the use of organization theory to a new field of empirical research.

The study shows how the local government in Shenzhen has become increasingly large and complex and more similar to the rest of the state apparatus since the beginning of the 1980s, despite the central government's stress on the need for a small and efficient public administration in the special economic zones and more frequent reform drives than the rest of the country. Demands from various ministries at the central level, the search for social fitness and the inflow of new personnel were some of the environmental mechanisms behind this development.

Through an account of how the local government's technical/competitive and institutional environment changed from the early 1980s and how these changes affected the local government, the study also shows how the reform efforts aimed at improving the investment environment for foreign-invested enterprises were triggered by the increasing domestic and international competition for foreign investments. When the amount of foreign investments decreased sharply in the first few months of 1995 the local government finally undertook a reorganization aimed at simplifying the foreign-invested enterprises' relations with the local government, a measure which by then had been on the government's agenda for over a decade but which had met resistance from some of the departments involved. The central government's demands for more revenues, the central government's and the foreign-invested enterprises' call for an improved investment environment as well as the fact that other cities around the country had already undertaken similar reforms were other environmental factors affecting the local government's decision to undertake this reform.

A tentative evaluation of the reforms also showed that they were not merely used as a means to improve the government's facade but that they did in fact have a positive impact on the investment environment.

Publishing year





Lund Political Studies



Document type



Lund University Press


  • Political Science


  • China
  • competition
  • resource dependence
  • investment environment
  • foreign investments
  • institutions
  • organizational environment
  • organization theory
  • public administration
  • administrative reforms
  • Shenzhen
  • Political and administrative sciences
  • Statsvetenskap
  • förvaltningskunskap




  • [unknown] [unknown]


  • ISSN: 0460-0037
  • ISBN: 91-7966-565-9

Defence date

28 April 1999

Defence time


Defence place

Edens hörsal, Lund, Sweden


  • Tom Christensen (Professor)