Our interpretation is that countries can grow fast at low levels of income per capita even if the quality of their institutions is not high (and China could be an example). But once you get to levels of income per capita around $12,000, it is impossible to grow unless institutions improve. We call this level "The Great Wall". We have seen in the past countries approaching this level of development and getting stuck because of the lack of proper institutions ("they hit the wall"). Only countries that improve their institutions manager to join the ranks of rich economies ("they climb the wall").
We elaborate these thoughts on a teaching note (it is not an academic paper) that we have posted on our web site. The HBR article can be found on their site.
Antonio Fatás and Ilian Mihov