Impeding Authoritarian Transparency: How China’s Industrial Giants Hold Back Institutional Reform

Posted: 22 May 2012  

Peter L. Lorentzen

University of California, Berkeley

Pierre F. Landry

University of Pittsburgh

John K. Yasuda

Center for the Study of Contemporary China

Date Written: May 21, 2012

Abstract

Recent transparency reforms in China are intended in part to help activists, journalists, and others to limit the ability of the local party-state to engage in practices that not only harm ordinary Chinese but also go against central government interests. However, implementing these reforms requires cooperation from the very actors who may be weakened by them. We show that even controlling for pollution, development, and industrialization, Chinese cities dominated by large industrial firms are less transparent than those with a less-concentrated industrial base. This effect is stronger when the city’s largest firm is in a highly polluting industry. We control for pollution using satellite-generated data in order to avoid relying on questionable official data that may be manipulated by local governments. While the negative economic consequences of the dominance of large state-connected firms have been widely discussed, our study shows that this growth strategy has important and deleterious political effects as well.

Keywords: transparency, authoritarianism, China, environment, pollution, urban politics, federalism

JEL Classification: D73, H77, K32, P26, R58

Suggested Citation

Lorentzen, Peter L. and Landry, Pierre F. and Yasuda, John K., Impeding Authoritarian Transparency: How China’s Industrial Giants Hold Back Institutional Reform (May 21, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2064177 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2064177

Peter L. Lorentzen (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

210 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Pierre F. Landry

University of Pittsburgh ( email )

4L01 Posvar Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States
412-648-7250 (Phone)
412-648-7277 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.pitt.edu/~politics/faculty.html

John K. Yasuda

Center for the Study of Contemporary China ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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