Foreign direct investment and economic development
: an interactive relationship

  • Xiaoying Li

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


With the increasing importance of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), there have been substantial studies on this issue, both empirically and theoretically. However, most existing studies focus on either the impacts of FDI presence or the determinants of FDI inflows, ignoring the fact that inward FDI and economic development may simultaneously affect each other. This thesis sets out to examine the interactive effects between FDI and economic development. The whole thesis is composed of five chapters. Chapter One is an overall introduction to the thesis. Chapter Two presents a theoretical study and chapter Two and Three provide two empirical studies. Chapter Five concludes. Chapter Two presents a theoretical two-sector model that features the importance of human capital in attracting foreign investment. This model theoretically explains why FDI is more likely to occur among countries that are similar in terms of human capital and technology. On the other hand, MNCs must train local employees to work with firm-specific technology and hence improve the technological skills of local workers. In Chapter Two, an empirical model is constructed to detect whether the productivities of foreign and local firms impact each other. The model is tested on China’s data at the industry level. The results indicate that productivity growth of local and foreign firms are jointly determined. Evidence also suggests that the extent to which spillovers occur varies with difference technology levels of local firms. Chapter Four investigates the relationship between FDI and economic grown based on a panel of data for 84 countries over the period 1970-1999. Both equations of FDI inflow and GDP growth are examined. The results indicate that FDI not only directly promotes economic growth by itself, but also indirectly does so via its interaction terms. There is a strong positive interaction effect of FDI with human capital and a strong negative interaction effect of FDI with technology gap on economic growth in developing countries.
Date of Award2005
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorXiaming Liu (Supervisor)


  • Foreign direct investment
  • economic development
  • economic growth
  • technolgy spillovers
  • human capital
  • endogenous

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