East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society

April 7 Workshop


East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society Presents


“Friends with Benefits: Patronage Politics and Distributive Strategies in China”


Junyan Jiang

PhD Student, Department of Political Science

University of Chicago


4:30-6pm, Tuesday

April 7, 2015

Pick Lounge, 5828 South University Ave.



We develop a theory of distributive politics for authoritarian regimes based on the incentives of individual politicians. We argue that in a system where power originates from informal patronage networks, aspiring politicians have an incentive to use state resources to aid the careers of lower-level officials who will become their future political allies. This incentive, however, is checked by the the presence of competing patrons who possess the power to sanction. We illustrate this tradeoff in a simple model and test the predictions using new fiscal and political biographic data from Chinese cities between 2001-2009 with a novel method that identifies patronage ties from past promotions. We find that patronage considerations by the provincial party secretary strongly shape how fiscal transfer is distributed within a province: All else equal a city with leaders promoted by the incumbent provincial secretary receives 4 to 6 percent more transfer than a city without. The degree of favoritism varies markedly with the political cycle, the expected value of the promotion and, most importantly, the relative power balance among patrons. Using both official statistics and data from satellite imagery, we further find that connected cities spend substantially more on infrastructure investments, partially through additional inflow of fiscal transfers.


Workshop website: http://cas.uchicago.edu/workshops/eastasia/

Student coordinator: Wen Xie (wxie@uchicago.edu)

Faculty sponsors: Dali Yang, Dingxin Zhao and Zheng Michael Song


This presentation is sponsored by the Council on Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences and Center for East Asian Studies. Persons with disabilities who believe they may need assistance please contact the student coordinator in advance.

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