Empirical studies of corporate governance in China

  • Li Cui

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy


The thesis aims to provide empirical studies towards Chinese corporate governance. Since China initially established its stock exchange system in the 1990s, it has gone through different stages of changes to become a more market-oriented system. Extensive studies have been conducted in Chinese corporate governance, however, many were theoretical discussion focusing on the early stages and there‘s a general lack of empirical analysis.
This paper provides three empirical analysis of the Chinese corporate governance: the overall market discipline efficiency, the impact of capital structure on agency costs, the status of 2005- 2006 reform that substantially modified ownership structure of Chinese listed firms and separated ownership and control of listed firms.
The three empirical studies were selected to reflect four key issues that need answering: the first empirical study, using event study to detect market discipline on a collective level. This study filled a gap in the Chinese stock market literature for being the first one ever using cross-market data to test market discipline.
The second empirical study endeavoured to contribute to the existing corporate governance literature regarding capital structure and agency costs. Two conclusions can be made through this study: 1) for Chinese listed firms, higher gearing means higher asset turnover ratios and ROE, i.e. more debts seem to reduce agency costs; 2) concentration level of shares appears to be irrelevant
with company performance, controlling shareholders didn‘t seem to commit to the improvement of corporate assets utilization or contribute to reducing agency costs. This study addressed a key issue in Chinese corporate governance since the state has significant shareholding in most big listed companies. The discussion of corporate governance in the Chinese context would be completely meaningless without discussing the state‘s role in corporate governance, given that about 2/3 of the almost all shares were non-circulating shares controlled by the state before the 2005-2006 overhaul ownership reform.
The third study focused on the 2005-2006 reform of ownership of Chinese listed firms. By collecting large-scale data covering all 64 groups of Chinese listed companies went through the reform by the end of 2006 (accounting for about 97.86% and 96.76% of the total market value of Shanghai (SSE) and Shenzhen Stock Exchange (SZSE) respectively), a comprehensive study about the ownership reform was conducted. This would be first and most comprehensive empirical study in this area. The study of separated ownership and control of listed firm is the first study conducted using the ultimate ownership concept in Chinese context.
Date of Award20 Feb 2014
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorNigel L Driffield (Supervisor)


  • corporate governance
  • agency costs
  • ownership structure
  • capital structure
  • insider trading

Cite this