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CRIEFF Discussion Paper Number 0907

Entrepreneurial Orientation, Intangible Assets and Firm Growth: the impact of ‘Spirit and Material’ on the growth of Chinese private firms

Gavin C. Reid and Zhibin Xu

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This paper has three contributions. First, it shows how field work within small firms in PR Chinese has provided new evidence which enables us to measure and calibrate Entrepreneurial Orientation (EO), as ‘spirit’, and Intangible Assets (IA), as ‘material’, for use in models of small firm growth. Second, it uses inter-item correlation analysis and both exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis to provide new measures of EO and IA, in index and in vector form, for use in econometric models of firm growth. Third, it estimates two new econometric models of small firm employment growth in PR China, under the null hypothesis of Gibrat’s Law, using our two new index-based and vector-based measures of EO and IA. Estimation is by OLS with adjustment for heteroscedasticity, and for sample selectivity.

Broadly, it finds that EO attributes have had little significant impact on small firm growth, and indeed innovativeness and pro-activity paradoxically may even dampen growth. However, IA attributes have had a positive and significant impact on growth, with networking, and technological knowledge being of prime importance, and intellectual property and human capital being of lesser but still significant importance. In the light of these results, Gibrat’s Law is generalized, and Jovanovic’s learning theory is extended, to emphasise the importance of IA to growth.

These findings cast new empirical light on the oft-quoted national slogan in PR China of “spirit and material”. So far as small firms are concerned, this paper suggests that their contribution to PR China’s remarkable economic growth is not so much attributable to the ‘spirit’ of enterprise (as suggested by propaganda) as, more prosaically, to the pursuit of the ‘material’.

JEL codes: L21, L26, L53, M21
Keywords: entrepreneurial orientation; intangible assets; small business growth; PR China

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