Pro‐Social Leadership Under Authoritarianism

26 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2019

See all articles by Ming Lu

Ming Lu

Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU)

Lijun Xia

Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) - Antai College of Economics and Management

Jinchuan Xiao

Industrial Securities Co. Ltd

Date Written: January 2019


Authoritarianism is regarded as being unaccountable for people's needs, but few studies have documented how authoritarian countries balance their policy goals. China is known to use a promotion system to incentivize local leaders to develop the economy, while neglecting social spending. This paper documents that more leaders having a liberal arts background have been promoted as top provincial leaders. After carefully ruling out other channels, we provide evidence that the shift of top provincial leaders’ college educational backgrounds from science/technology to liberal arts/social science has increased fiscal expenditure shares on science, education, culture and public health and cut economic construction expenditures accordingly. The finding is mainly driven by the post‐1994 period, when local leaders had stronger incentives for economic growth. This indicates that Chinese top authorities are promoting more pro‐social local leaders when providing pro‐growth incentives in general.

Keywords: Leadership, authoritarianism, fiscal expenditure, educational background, China

Suggested Citation

Lu, Ming and Xia, Lijun and Xiao, Jinchuan, Pro‐Social Leadership Under Authoritarianism (January 2019). Economics of Transition and Institutional Change, Vol. 27, Issue 1, pp. 5-30, 2019. Available at SSRN: or

Ming Lu (Contact Author)

Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) ( email )

800 Dongchuan Rd
Minhang, Shanghai 200240

Lijun Xia

Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) - Antai College of Economics and Management ( email )

No.535 Fahuazhen Road
Shanghai Jiao Tong University
Shanghai, Shanghai 200052

Jinchuan Xiao

Industrial Securities Co. Ltd ( email )


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