Challenges of working with the Chinese NBS firm-level data


Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

152 Citations (Scopus)


Over the reform period, industry has been the source of 40% of GDP, and has contributed 90% of China's exports. Annual firm-level surveys that begin in 1992, complemented with industry-wide census in 1995, 2004 and 2008, are rich sources of data on firm behavior. It is well-known that working with Chinese data requires overcoming difficult measurement issues. Macroeconomic series, for example, are often suspected of suffering from reporting bias and political interference. Working with the firm-level data has its own challenges. In this paper, we provide an introduction to these data sets. We discuss and illustrate several of the issues that make comparability over time difficult and suggest solutions. The importance of a particular measurement issue often depends on the exact application. We illustrate this point by tracing the evolution of the relative productivity level of entrants and incumbents over time, distinguishing between changes in actual performance and changes driven by measurement problems. We conclude by identifying a few promising areas of future research and margins on which collaboration among users to improve these data might be beneficial.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-352
Number of pages14
JournalChina Economic Review
Early online date2 May 2014
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2014

Bibliographical note

We wish to acknowledge funding from a European ERC grant number StG-241127.


  • Administrative data
  • Firm entry
  • Manufacturing
  • Measurement


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