Reassessing the Quality of Government in China

54 Pages Posted: 26 Nov 2016 Last revised: 24 Jan 2017

Margaret Boittin

Osgoode Hall Law School

Greg Distelhorst

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Francis Fukuyama

Stanford University - Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies

Date Written: November 23, 2016

Abstract

How should the quality of government be measured across disparate national contexts? This study develops a new approach using an original survey of Chinese civil servants and a comparison to the United States. We surveyed over 2,500 Chinese municipal officials on three organizational features of their bureaucracies: meritocracy, individual autonomy, and morale. They report greater meritocracy than U.S. federal employees in almost all American agencies. China's edge is smaller in autonomy and markedly smaller in morale. Differences between the U.S. and China lessen, but do not disappear, after adjusting for respondent demographics and excluding respondents most likely to be influenced by social desirability biases. Our findings contrast with numerous indices of good government that rank the U.S. far above China. They suggest that incorporating the opinions of political insiders into quality of government indices may challenge the foundations of a large body of cross-national governance research.

Keywords: governance indicators, quality of government, China, bureaucracy, authoritarian politics

Suggested Citation

Boittin, Margaret and Distelhorst, Greg and Fukuyama, Francis, Reassessing the Quality of Government in China (November 23, 2016). MIT Sloan Research Paper No. 5181-16; MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2016-38. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2875244

Margaret Boittin

Osgoode Hall Law School ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3
Canada
416-736-5349 (Phone)

Greg Distelhorst (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

77 Massachusetts Ave.
E62-416
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.gregdistelhorst.com

Francis Fukuyama

Stanford University - Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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