The Decline of Factions: The Impact of Purge on Political Appointments in China

55 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2019 Last revised: 2 Feb 2021

See all articles by Zeren Li

Zeren Li

Duke University, Department of Political Science

Melanie Manion

Duke University, Department of Political Science

Date Written: February 1, 2021

Abstract

Scholars typically treat corruption crackdowns in authoritarian regimes as coup-proofing purges to eliminate rivals, but purges extending beyond top powerholders have broader impact than this logic implies. Wide-reaching purges grossly raise the cost of political error, thereby increasing risk reduction in decisionmaking throughout the system. We analyze decisions on political appointments before and during a massive corruption crackdown in China. We estimate the purge impact by analyzing 2013--2017 prefecture-year panel data on political turnover of communist party secretaries. We expect party bosses of these officials to reduce perceived career risk by biasing appointments against their own clients, to signal they are not building factions, with variation in bias reflecting heterogeneity in intensity of Beijing’s purges. We find the conditional effect of purge intensity on anti-client bias statistically significant and sizable during this great purge, but not in previous smaller-scale anticorruption crackdowns. This study contributes to knowledge about purges under authoritarianism.

Keywords: purge, political selection, authoritarianism, corruption crackdown, China

Suggested Citation

Li, Zeren and Manion, Melanie, The Decline of Factions: The Impact of Purge on Political Appointments in China (February 1, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3446354 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3446354

Zeren Li (Contact Author)

Duke University, Department of Political Science ( email )

Durham, NC 27708
United States

Melanie Manion

Duke University, Department of Political Science ( email )

140 Science Drive, 294F Gross Hall
Duke University Mailcode: 90204
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

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