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Studies in Comparative International Development

, Volume 51, Issue 3, pp 235–256 | Cite as

Co-optation & Clientelism: Nested Distributive Politics in China’s Single-Party Dictatorship

  • Yuen Yuen Ang
Article

Abstract

What explains the persistent growth of public employment in reform-era China despite repeated and forceful downsizing campaigns? Why do some provinces retain more public employees and experience higher rates of bureaucratic expansion than others? Among electoral regimes, the creation and distribution of public jobs is typically attributed to the politics of vote buying and multi-party competition. Electoral factors, however, cannot explain the patterns observed in China’s single-party dictatorship. This study highlights two nested factors that influence public employment in China: party co-optation and personal clientelism. As a collective body, the ruling party seeks to co-opt restive ethnic minorities by expanding cadre recruitment in hinterland provinces. Within the party, individual elites seek to expand their own networks of power by appointing clients to office. The central government’s professed objective of streamlining bureaucracy is in conflict with the party’s co-optation goal and individual elites’ clientelist interest. As a result, the size of public employment has inflated during the reform period despite top-down mandates to downsize bureaucracy.

Keywords

Co-optation Clientelism Dictatorships Redistribution China 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The author wishes to thank Pierre Landry for sharing his dataset on provincial leaders, as well as Jean Oi, Andrew Walder, Alberto Diaz-Cayeros, Mary Gallagher, Anna Grzymala-Busse, Allen Hicken, Yuhua Wang, and participants at the American and Midwest Political Science Association Meetings for helpful comments. 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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