Authoritarian Gridlock? Understanding Delay in the Chinese Legislative System
75 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2017
Date Written: July 10, 2017
Legislative gridlock is often viewed as a uniquely democratic phenomenon. The institutional checks and balances that produce gridlock are absent from authoritarian systems, leading many observers to romanticize "authoritarian efficiency" and policy dynamism. A unique dataset from the Chinese case demonstrates that authoritarian regimes can have trouble passing laws and changing policies - 48% of laws are not passed within the period specified in legislative plans, and about 12% of laws take over ten years to pass. This paper develops a theory that relates variation in legislative outcomes to the absence of division within the ruling coalition and citizen attention shocks. Qualitative analysis of China's Food Safety Law (2009), coupled with shadow case studies of two other laws, illustrate the plausibility of the theoretical mechanisms. Division and public opinion play decisive roles in authoritarian legislative processes.
Keywords: authoritarian, institutions, legislature, gridlock, power sharing, China, National People's Congress, responsive authoritarianism
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