The Political Beliefs of Chinese Officials

Greg Distelhorst, Mitsubishi Career Development Professor in International Management, MIT

4:30pm | Perelman Center for Political Science & Economics, Rm 100, 133 S. 36th St.

What are the stated beliefs of officials in China’s single-party regime? Can they express different views on policy, and if so, do their disagreements reflect deeper ideological orientations? We study these questions with an original survey of local government officials in China. The median respondent expressed support for ‘law-abiding interventionism’—with the government both constrained by law and deeply involved in the economy. Yet the median view is not a consensus. In simple principal component analyses, we show that disagreements between officials are organized into loosely coherent individual ideologies surrounding support for markets and attachment to legal process. Individual levels of support for markets and for law are largely independent of one another. These ideological positions also show a generational gap; younger officials express greater support for markets and attachment to law. Finally, we find that nationalistic attitudes are correlated with state intervention in the economy, but not attachment to law.

(Joint work with Margaret Boittin, York University.)