Although China’s economy has experienced fast growth over the years, it is also characterized by a lack of innovative products and slow development of advanced production technologies. A main reason for this problem is insufficient investments in research and development (R&D) activities by Chinese firms. Because of the potential externality and free-rider effects, the economics literature has long suggested that the private sector tends to underinvest in R&D without governmental interventions. The weak protection of intellectual property rights in China makes the problem of underinvestment in R&D even worse. In this situation, it becomes increasingly important for the government to provide incentives such as subsidies on R&D investments, given that R&D investments are critical to the development of new technologies and the sustainable growth of the economy.
In this study I investigate how governmental subsidies on R&D influence Chinese firms’ R&D investments and performance. Specifically, I want to find out (1) whether governmental subsidies promote or hinder firms’ R&D investments, and (2) whether governmental subsidies have differential effects on financial performance across different types of firms. My goal is to better understand the effects of governmental subsidies on Chinese firms. To achieve this goal, I first conduct an extensive review of the relevant literature and then develop a conceptual model about the determinants of governmental subsidies on R&D in China. Next, I conduct empirical analysis using data collected from all the firms listed in the Shanghai Stock Changes and Shenzhen Stock Exchanges during the period of 2009 to 2012. Overall, my findings show that governmental subsidies on R&D have a positive impact on R&D investments by the listed firms. Meanwhile, I find that this positive impact varies significantly across different types of firms, particularly among firms that are still largely owned by the state. I conclude this study with a discussion of its implications for governmental policies on R&D investments.