The Decline of Factions: The Impact of Purge on Political Appointments in China
54 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2019 Last revised: 17 Jul 2020
Date Written: July 16, 2020
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. Such “great purges” grossly exacerbate uncertainty and raise the likelihood and 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, which we characterize as a great purge. We use linear probability models to estimate purge impact by analyzing 2008–2017 prefecture-year panel data with political turnover for prefectural communist party secretaries. We expect provincial party bosses of these officials to reduce perceived career risk by biasing appointment decisions against their own clients, with variation in bias reflecting heterogeneity in intensity of Beijing’s provincially targeted purges. We find the conditional effect of purge intensity on anti-client bias is statistically significant and sizable during the great purge, but not in smaller-scale anticorruption crackdowns before it.
Keywords: purge, political selection, authoritarianism, corruption crackdown, China
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