What Motivates Non-Democratic Leadership: Evidence from COVID-19 Reopenings in China
20 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2020
Date Written: July 7, 2020
Abstract We examine Chinese cities' COVID-19 reopening plans as a window into governments' economic and social priorities. Early reopenings are predicted by citizen discontent, as captured by Baidu searches for terms such as “unemployment” and “protest” in the prior week. Taking a longer view, early reopening occurs in cities with more strikes or other collective actions during 2017-2019. These results indicate that non-democracies may respond to citizen concerns, possibly to minimize dissent. Finally, early reopening occurs in cities with high debt repayments due in 2020, indicating a responsiveness to local fiscal conditions which may, in turn, affect city leaders' promotion prospects.
Keywords: Bureaucratic incentives, unrest, non-democracy, China, COVID-19
JEL Classification: D73; P26
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation