Cities, Redistribution, & Authoritarian Regime Survival
Journal of Politics, July 2013.
How does redistributive policy affect the survival of authoritarian regimes? I argue that redistributive policy in favor of cities, while temporarily reducing urban grievances, in the long-run undermines regime survival by inducing urban concentration. I test the argument using cross-national city population, urban bias, and nondemocratic regime survival data in the post-WWII period. The results show that urban concentration is dangerous for dictators principally by promoting collective action, that urban bias induces urban concentration, and that urban bias represents a Faustian bargain with short-term benefits overwhelmed by long-term costs.
Juking the Stats: Authoritarian Information Problems in China
British Journal of Political Science, Forthcoming
Economic statistics dominate policy analyses, political discussions, and the study of political economy. Such statistics inform citizens on general conditions while central leaders also use them to evaluate local officials. Are economic data systematically manipulated? After establishing discrepancies in economic data series across regime types cross-nationally, I dive into sub-national growth data in China. This paper leverages variation in the likelihood of manipulation over two dimensions, arguing that politically sensitive data are more likely to be manipulated at politically sensitive times. GDP releases generate headlines, while highly correlated electricity production and consumption data are less closely watched. At the sub-national level in China, the difference between GDP and electricity growth increases in years with leadership turnover, consistent with juking the stats for political reasons. The analysis points to the political role of information and the limits of non-electoral accountability mechanisms in authoritarian regimes as well as suggesting caution in the use of politically sensitive official economic statistics.
Who Uses the Clean Development Mechanism? An Empirical Analysis of Projects in Chinese Provinces
with Patrick Bayer & Johannes Urpelainen. Global Environmental Change, April 2013
China is by far the largest host of projects implemented under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). However, earlier studies shed little light on the determinants of the distribution of CDM projects across Chinese provinces. Given China’s large size and political-economic diversity, this dearth of research is troubling. We provide an empirical analysis of 2097 CDM projects in 30 Chinese provinces, 2004?009. We find that high electricity consumption, low per capita income, and a lack of foreign direct investment are all associated with CDM project implementation. The findings are particularly strong for electricity and foreign direct investment. These findings are consistent with the economic theory of CDM project implementation. Project developers focus on minimizing the cost of carbon abatement. Moreover, they suggest that the CDM can, despite its limitations, contribute to reducing economic inequality and uneven development in China.
Central vs. Local States: Which Matters More in affecting China’s Urban Growth?
with Qian Zhang, Karen Seto, and Xiangzheng Deng. Land Use Policy, May 2014
To date, many geography studies have identified GDP, population, FDI, and transportation factors as key drivers of urban growth in China. The political science literature has demonstrated that China’s urban growth is also driven by powerful economic and fiscal incentives for local governments, as well as by the political incentives of local leaders who control land use in their jurisdictions. These parallel but distinct research traditions limit a comprehensive understanding that can result in partial and potentially misleading conclusions of urbanization in China. This paper presents a spatially explicit study that incorporates both political science and geographic perspectives to understand the relative importance of hierarchal administrative governments in affecting urban growth. We use multi-level modeling approach to examine how socio-economic and policy factors–represented here by fiscal transfers–at different administrative levels affect growth in “urban hotspot counties” across three time periods (1995–2000, 2000–2005, and 2005–2008). Our results show that counties that are more dependent on fiscal transfers from the central government convert less cultivated land to urban use, controlling for other factors. We also find that local governments are becoming more powerful in shaping urban land development as a result of local economic, fiscal, and political incentives, as well as through the practical management and control of capital, land, and human resources. By incorporating fiscal transfers in our analysis, our study examines a factor in the urban development of China that had previously been neglected and provides an improved understanding of the underlying processes and pathways involved in urban growth in China.
Information Politics in Dictatorships
in Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. (eds.) Robert Scott and Stephen Kosslyn. John Wiley and Sons. Forthcoming.
Political science has made great progress in the study of nondemocratic regime survival in the past fifteen years. Democratization is only one threat that such regimes face—indeed, most nondemocratic regimes are replaced by other dictators. How do regimes learn about the threats facing them? Cutting edge research has pointed to elite institutions, such as legislatures and Politburos, easing information problems amongst regime insiders. However, the ways that nondemocratic regimes gather information about local agent performance and society remain underexplored.
A copy of my CV is here.