Technological know-how transfer and early industrial growth


Table of Contents

Technology transfer and early industrial progress: The case of the Sino-Soviet Alliance

Intercontinental technological know-how and information transfers are vital drivers of economic advancement. For this rationale, industrial coverage interventions have typically promoted their diffusion by means of the distribution of state-of-the-art capital merchandise or by intensive on-the-job training from foreign providers (Chandra 2006, Stockey 2020). The outcomes of these interventions, even so, are controversial. In some nations, these types of as Japan and South Korea, they have proven successful (Harrison and Rodriguez-Claire 2010, Choi and Levchenko 2021, Kim et al. 2021), when in some other circumstances, such as in Sub-Saharan countries, they have manufactured only modest success (Robinson 2009). 

Understanding which industrial procedures function is important to endorse the improvement of poorer nations around the world. However, financial research on this matter has been held back by several empirical difficulties. 1st, one would need natural variation in the shipping and delivery of this sort of interventions, due to the fact distinct insurance policies are a lot more probably to be carried out the place they have an ex-ante larger probability of results. 2nd, to thoroughly evaluate their effect, it would be vital to abide by the outcomes of focused corporations and industries in the long operate. Last but not least, it is tough to isolate the effect of distinct contents, as industrial policies usually mix a number of interventions jointly. 

In a new paper (Giorcelli and Li 2021), we analyze the consequences of technology and understanding transfers on early industrial development, employing proof from the Sino-Soviet Alliance. In the 1950s, to advance the industrialisation of the recently shaped People’s Republic of China, the Soviet Union supported the progress of the so-named 156 Assignments, an array of technologically sophisticated, big-scale, capital-intensive industrial amenities.[1] These initiatives centered on large industries and experienced the whole price of $80 billion (in 2020 figures), equal to 45.7% of Chinese GDP in 1949 and 144.3% of its industrial output. These ended up of two forms: the ‘basic’ kinds included the duplication of complete Soviet vegetation and the transfer of condition-of-the-artwork Soviet equipment and devices (Figure 1, Panel A) the ‘advanced’ types, in addition to the ‘basic’ part, also incorporated the transfer of know-how to run the new machinery and in-plant technical and management coaching for Chinese engineers and creation supervisors (Figure 1, Panel B). The Soviet transfer was considered a essential element in Chinese advancement. Its investments, which accounted for 45% of Chinese GDP in 1949, authorized China to obtain the greatest Soviet engineering, which, in the steel and iron industries, was considered the very best in the environment (Clark 1973, Lardy 1995). 

Figure 1 Soviet technology and know-how transfer beneath the Sino-Soviet Alliance

Panel A

Panel B

Notes: Panel A shows the first Soviet-imported blast furnace in Ansteel Group at Anshan applying Kolesnikov’s innovative running strategies in 1953, that only took 6 and a fifty percent several hours to create metal. Panel B shows Soviet electrical engineer Zhuowugnodny outlining Ansteel Team employees how to use the blast furnace. 
Resource: The Memoir of Personnel at Ansteel.

We collected new data from historic archives on the 156 Assignments signed among 1950 and 1957, which we matched with declassified details on their plant effectiveness yearly right up until 2000 for the steel business and in 1985 and concerning 1998 and 2013 for all the industries. 

Normally, large industrial projects are found in areas with an ex-ante bigger opportunity to improve. This would make it tricky to infer their implications for economic progress. However, the Chinese case had some features that enable to triumph over this empirical situation. In truth, the initial spot of the 156 Initiatives was preferred dependent on strategic criteria and proximity to all-natural means (Determine 2). However, through their completion most tasks confronted substantial delays, not relevant to their features but owing to Soviet constraints in providing funds items and authorities to prepare their Chinese counterparts. When the Sino-Soviet Split in 1960 instantly ended the alliance involving the two countries, the 156 Initiatives have been interrupted at the stage they had been. As a consequence, projects that skilled less delays had previously received the Soviet equipment and education (state-of-the-art projects), many others had only acquired the Soviet equipment (fundamental initiatives), when the remaining types that expert additional delays finished up neither obtaining any Soviet capital nor coaching and were completed by China alone, adhering to the unique Soviet plans but working with classic domestic know-how (comparison projects). Notably, the general performance of crops in the three teams of initiatives had been substantially the very same in the five years in advance of the Soviet interventions. 

Figure 2 Place of the 156 Projects 

Notes: The figure exhibits all the 139 accredited assignments concerning 1950 and 1957, whilst the iconic label 156 Projects refers to the variety of projects to begin with contemplated. Source: Facts are presented at the project stage from the National Archives Administration of China.  

We come across three main final results. 

  • To start with, the overall performance of fundamental crops (that been given Soviet machinery) only differentially amplified relative to that of comparison crops (concluded by China by itself) in the first six a long time after the intervention. After that, the consequences began little by little reducing and ended up no for a longer time unique following 20 years (Determine 3, inexperienced line) – the approximated lifecycle of Soviet money. 
  • Second, results of state-of-the-art vegetation (that gained both of those Soviet equipment and coaching) frequently grew additional than people of primary crops, reaching a cumulative outcome of 47% bigger output right after 40 many years (Determine 3, blue). 
  • Third, we doc that the results of the superior transfer persisted in excess of many years thanks to the domestic enhancement of new technologies. In the 1960s and 1970s, when China’s conversation with international nations around the world was really constrained, only highly developed vegetation have been equipped to home-fabricate present day machineries and tools, which eventually changed Soviet cash when it became out of date. Furthermore, when China commenced gradually opening to international trade in the early 1980s, innovative vegetation relied drastically fewer on the import of overseas capital, and they systematically engaged much more in trade because of to developing superior-high-quality output than essential vegetation. 

Figure 3 Yearly results of the technological innovation transfer on plant metal physical output

Notes: Yearly estimated steel output of sophisticated plants that received Soviet funds and know-how (blue line), primary crops that been given only Soviet Capital (eco-friendly line) and comparison plants that were done by China on your own utilizing domestical cash (gray line). The very first crimson vertical line indicates when the Soviet transfer was shipped. The next red vertical line indicates when China started out opening up to intercontinental trade. 
Resource: Knowledge are presented at the plant stage for 304 steel plants from the Steel Association Reviews (1949-2000). 

The big target of the Soviet technological innovation transfer was to build substantial industrial amenities to push community industrial enhancement. Was the programme thriving in undertaking so? We present that the existence of innovative vegetation identified substantial productivity spillover and engineering diffusion inside of corporations and across plants horizontally or vertically related to them. When, in the late 1990s, the Chinese authorities authorized the privatisation of point out-owned organizations, companies similar to superior vegetation that turned personal executed superior in phrases of benefit included, productivity and exports. At the county stage, these variations were being related with an increased share of industrial output developed by personal corporations. We further more take a look at potential mechanisms that could push the persistent spillover effects in the lengthy run. Counties that hosted superior crops experienced a increased concentration of industry-specific human funds, measured by engineers and high-expert workers, considering that sophisticated vegetation promoted the generation of technical educational institutions and STEM majors. When firms began competing for inputs in the neighborhood market place, organizations that became privately owned may possibly have been able to employ the service of far more educated employees, with beneficial results on their general performance. By contrast, we do not uncover evidence of preferential therapies from the govt or greater political connections in the counties where advanced crops were found. 

What are the coverage implications of our investigate? In 1949, China was an agricultural nation comparable to a variety of developing countries right now, where technology and knowledge transfers usually arise via overseas immediate expense and joint ventures (Robinson 2009, Jiang et al. 2018). Our work exhibits that the consequences of foreign-imported systems are tough to replicate making use of domestic funds goods in early phases of economic progress. Furthermore, our findings underscore the relevance of international on-the-task schooling and know-how, not only for enhancing firm effectiveness and know-how improvement but also for propagating marketplace knowledge to other corporations, with the subsequent development of significant-skilled human cash in the long operate.


Our paper shows that the outcomes of obtaining both technologically superior money goods and know-how transfer less than the Sino-Soviet Alliance experienced substantial, persistent effects on plant efficiency, while the results of obtaining capital only ended up small-lived. The know-how element was essential to produced horizontal and vertical spillovers, as very well as manufacturing reallocation from condition-owned to privately owned organizations considering that the late 1990s.


Chandra, V (2006), Technologies, Adaptation, and Exports  How Some Developing Countries Received It Ideal, Entire world Bank Publications.

Choi, J and A Levchenko (2021), “When Industrial Coverage Labored: the Situation of South-Korea,”, 09 November.

Clark, G (1973), Advancement of China’s Metal Field and Soviet Specialized Support, Cornell University.

Giorcelli, M and B Li (2021), “Technology Transfer and Early Industrial Advancement: Evidence from the Sino-Soviet Alliance,” NBER Functioning Paper No. 29455. 

Harrison, A and A Rodriguez-Clare (2010), “From Tough to Delicate Industrial Insurance policies in Building Nations around the world,”, 27 June.

Jiang, K, W Keller, L D Qiu, and W Ridley (2018), “International Joint Ventures and Inside vs. Exterior Technological know-how Transfer: Proof from China”, NBER Performing Paper No. 24455.

Kim, M, M Lee, and Y Shin (2021), “The Plant-Stage Perspective of an Industrial Plan: the Korean Hefty Market Push of 1973,”, 25 October. 

Lardy, N (1995), “Emulating the Soviet Product, 1949-1957,” in R MacFarquhar and J K Fairbank (eds), The Cambridge Heritage of China. Volume 14. The People’s Republic of China: The Emergence of Revolutionary China, 1949-1965, Cambridge College Push.

Robinson, J A (2009), “Industrial Policy and Growth: A Political Economic system Standpoint,” 2009 Planet Lender ABCDE Convention Papers and Proceedings.

Stokey, N (2020), “Technology Diffusion”, NBER Functioning Paper No. 27466.


1 We say ‘so-called’ since 156 initiatives have been at first contemplated and since the identifying label has persisted to this working day in China. Nevertheless, only 139 assignments involving Soviet technology transfer were being at some point signed and authorized.

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