Authoritarian ‘Rule of Law’ and Regime Legitimacy
Comparative Political Studies (link)
A prominent hypothesis to explain the durability of authoritarian regimes focuses on the official adoption of law and legal institutions. The present study offers a novel empirical approach to test the relationship between legal construction and regime legitimation, drawing on a quasi-experiment and original panel survey in rural China. Using difference-in-difference, sub-group, and two-stage least squares analyses, it finds that the Chinese state’s project of legal construction powerfully shapes the legal consciousness of ordinary rural citizens and that state-constructed legal consciousness enhances regime legitimacy. The study also presents qualitative evidence to identify the causal mechanism linking state-constructed legal consciousness and regime legitimacy: the expansion of local institutions like state-run legal-aid centers in rural communities. The study contributes to the institutional focus in debates about authoritarian durability by providing evidence at the intersection of state and society.
Changing Property Rights Regimes: A Study of Rural Land Tenure in China
(with Loren Brandt, Linxiu Zhang, and Tonglong Zhang)
China Quarterly (link)
Through two rounds of land contracting, rural households have been allocated a bundle of rights in land. We observe significant differences across villages in the amount of land to which villagers retain a claim and the institutional mechanisms governing the exchange of land rights. This study reveals the perpetuation and expansion of non-market mechanisms accruing to the benefit of village cadres and state officials and only limited emergence of market mechanisms in which households are primary beneficiaries. It identifies factors in economic, political, and legal domains that incentivize and enable state officials and local cadres to capture returns from use of land. Relatedly, the study finds differences in conflict over property rights regimes. Drawing on a pilot survey carried out by the authors in November of 2011 in Shaanxi and Jiangsu provinces (192 households in 24 villages), this paper seeks to explain heterogeneity and change in property rights regimes over time and across space.
The Role of Law in China’s Economic Development
In China’s Great Economic Transformation (Cambridge University Press, 2004)
(with Donald Clarke and Peter Murrell)
The Cadre Evaluation System at the Grass Roots: The Paradox of Party Rule
(Cambridge University Press, 2004)
Fiscal Pressures, Land Disputes, and Justice Claims in Rural China
This article explores justice claims and legal recourse in disputes over land rights—a major source of unrest—in rural China. Local governments’ search for fiscal revenue and the concomitant fiscalisation of land create the context for the recent wave of land disputes. The types of dispute and the contexts in which disputes arise shape the ways in which citizens seek recourse to threats to their property rights and shape the kinds of justice claim they make in the process. Citizens whose land rights are threatened by land takings orchestrated by local governments and outside developers are more likely to pursue both distributive and procedural justice claims in court than are citizens whose land rights are threatened by reallocation of land within the community. In the latter case, citizens are more likely to pursue distributive but not procedural justice claims through mediation. These patterns hold in both case study and survey evidence. Distributive justice is associated with the fairness of outcome of a dispute, while procedural justice is associated with fairness of the process of dispute resolution.
Fiscal Reform and Land Public Finance
In China’s Local Public Finance in Transition
Law and Its Substitutes
In Dynamics of Local Governance in China
The Mobilization of Private Investment as a Problem of Trust
In Trust and Governance
The Rural Economy
Forthcoming, Sage Handbook of Contemporary China(with Dan Wang)
China’s rural economy holds important lessons for development studies. This chapter addresses the legacies of the Mao era and the key features of the post-Mao era. The planned economy, instituted under Mao, used state power to divide the urban and rural economies and to extract resources from the rural sector at unfavorable terms, facilitated by the collectivization of agriculture. In the post-Mao era, China’s rural economy has both challenged and confirmed elements of development orthodoxy. While maintaining collective ownership of rural land, post-Mao reforms assigned certain land rights to households, improved incentives, and introduced markets, all contributing to stronger growth, productivity, and poverty reduction. Rural industry—township and village enterprises (TVEs)—was marked by second-best institutions and yet contributed to higher incomes and provision of public goods in rural communities. Agricultural price reform has been gradual, but most food prices are now determined by market forces. At the same time, the government, motivated by a concern over food security, has heavily subsidized staple crops, leading to market distortions and budgetary pressures. Achieving sustainable agricultural production in the face of water shortages, soil degradation, etc., and providing more equal opportunity for rural residents pose policy challenges for the 21st century.