Political Economy and Governance

View of Pudong business district with a transparent Chinese flag superimposed.

Political Economy and Governance

Understanding the interaction of politics, economy and society in China.

Overview

The appearance of a strong, monolithic Chinese state belies considerable variation in economic, cultural, and governance practice across localities, i.e., administrative jurisdictions and regions. These variations create tensions in uneven development that may exert significant impacts on political processes and regime stability, and are also sources of innovation and institutional changes. The political economy of locality sheds light on the sub-national dynamics in local governance, civil society, and the role of local bureaucratic networks and social institutions in economic development. To understand how the Chinese economy functions and evolves, we need to understand how the political economy, in general, and the political economy of locality – the interaction of politics, economy and society – works across localities, how government policies are implemented and derailed at local levels, how local initiatives take place or are suppressed, and how local bureaucrats and citizens respond to top-down mobilization. Our research is organized around two sets of activities: a.) the collection and analysis of micro-level data to systematically examine variations across localities at the intersection of politics and economy; b.) collaboration with local researchers to gain insights into behavioral patterns in local response to government policies and initiatives.

Publications

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Journal Articles

Rural education across China's 40 years of Reform: past successes and future challenges

Ai Yue, Bin Tang, Yaojiang Shi, Jingjing Tang, Guanminjia Shang, Alexis Medina, Scott Rozelle
China Agricultural Economic Review , 2018

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to describe the policy and trends in rural education in China over the past 40 years; and also discuss a number of challenges that are faced by China’s rural school system.

Design/methodology/approach – The authors use secondary data on policies and trends over the past 40 years for preschool, primary/junior high school, and high school.

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Journal Articles

Trends and determinants of rural residential solid waste collection services in China

Yaojiang Shi, Linxiu Zhang, Chengfang Liu, Natalie Johnson, Scott Rozelle
China Economic Agricultural Review , 2016

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to describe the trends in residential solid waste collection (RSWC) services in rural China over the past decade and analyze the determinants of these services using nationally representative data.

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Journal Articles

The New Rural Social Pension Program in Rural China: Participation and its Correlates

Renfu Luo, Linxiu Zhang, Scott Rozelle
China Agricultural Economic Review , 2016

Purpose: The need for a universal rural pension system has been heightened by demographic changes in rural China, including the rapid aging of the nation’s rural population and a dramatic decline in fertility. In response to these changes, China’s Government introduced the New Rural Social Pension Program (NRSPP) in 2009, a voluntary and highly subsidized pension scheme. The purpose of this paper is to assess the participation of rural farmers in the NRSPP. Furthermore, the authors examine whether the NRSPP affects the labor supply of the elderly population in China.

 
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Journal Articles

To Board or Not to Board: Evidence from Nutrition, Health and Education Outcomes of Students in Rural China

Aiqin Wang, Alexis Medina, Renfu Luo, Yaojiang Shi, Ai Yue
China & World Economy , 2016

The debate over whether boarding school is beneficial for students still exists in both developing and developed countries. In rural China, as a result of a national school merger program that began in 2001, the number of boarding students has increased dramatically. Little research has been done, however, to measure how boarding status may be correlated with nutrition, health and educational outcomes. In this paper, we compare the outcomes of boarding to those of non-boarding students using a large, aggregate dataset that includes 59 rural counties across five provinces in China. We fi nd that for all outcomes boarding students perform worse than non-boarding students. Despite these differences, the absolute levels of all outcomes are low for both boarding and non-boarding students, indicating a need for new policies that will target all rural students regardless of their boarding status.

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Journal Articles

Are China's Farms Growing?

Xianqing Ji, Scott Rozelle, Jikun Huang, Linxiu Zhang, Tonglong Zhang
China and World Economy , 2016

China's agricultural sector faces challenges because most farms are still small scale. China's policy is to encourage the consolidation of farms and promote farms that are larger in scale. A question that arises is: Are China's farms growing? The goal of the present paper is to determine whether large farms in China have emerged or if farms remain small. To meet this goal, we systematically document the trends in the operational sizes of China's farms and measure the determinants of changes in farm size. Using a nationally representative dataset, the study shows that in 2013 China's farming sector was still mostly characterized by small-scale farms. However, at the same time, there is an emerging class of middle-sized and larger-sized farms. Most large farms are being run by households but there is a set of large farms that are company/cooperative-run. Today, farmers on larger farms are younger and better educated than the average farmer.

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Journal Articles

When Will We Ever Learn To Change Policy: Current state of impact evaluation

Yaojiang Shi, Linxiu Zhang, Scott Rozelle
Journal of Development Effectiveness , 2015

Nearly nine years following the release of the Center for Global Development’s When Will We Ever Learn? Improving Lives Through Impact Evaluation report, and almost a decade into increased focus on evaluation among global donors, many in the research community are reflecting on the state of the impact evaluation field, whether the development community is learning what was hoped to from impact evaluations and where the future of impact evaluation leads. 

As part of this reflection, in this paper we will explore the recent past, current status and future of impact evaluation of development interventions. 

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Books

The Role of Agriculture in China's Development: Performance, policy determinants of success, and lessons for Africa

Jikun Huang, Scott Rozelle
Frontiers in Food Policy: Perspectives on sub-Saharan Africa , 2014

The lost decades for China in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s look remarkably like the lost decades of Africa in the 1980s an 1990s.  Poor land rights, weak incentives, incomplete markets and inappropriate investment portfolios.  However, China burst out of its stagnation in the 1980s and has enjoyed three decades of remarkable growth.  In this paper we examine the record of the development of China's food economy and identify the policies that helped generate the growth and transformation of agriculture.  Incentives, markets and strategic investments by the state were key.

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Journal Articles

How Are Secondary Vocational Schools in China Measuring up to Government Benchmarks?

Hongmei Yi, Linxiu Zhang, Chengfang Liu, James Chu, Prashant Loyalka, May Maani, Jianguo Wei
China & World Economy , 2013
Drawing on a survey of 106 secondary vocational schools and 7309 students in two provinces of China, this descriptive paper assesses whether vocational schooling is measuring up to government benchmarks for quality and whether poor students are able to access quality schools. We find that secondary vocational schools have met government benchmarks for teacher qualification and training, student opportunities for practical training and adequate facilities. Furthermore, poor students access schools of similar quality to non-poor students, even though 34 percent of poor students do not receive financial aid. We conclude that recent policies are successfully ensuring secondary vocational school quality and equity of access to school quality between poor and non-poor students. However, financial aid policies should be re-examined, such that poor students receive sufficient coverage. Moreover, given that input-based measures only proxy school quality, the government should consider holding schools accountable for outcomes such as student learning.
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Journal Articles

Poverty in China's Colleges and the Targeting of Financial Aid

Hongbin Li , Lingsheng Meng , Xinzheng Shi , Binzhen Wu
China Quarterly , 2013
To examine poverty on China’s campuses, we utilize the Chinese College Students Survey carried out in 2010. With poverty line defined as the college-specific expenditures a student needs to maintain the basic living standard on campus, we find that 22 percent of college students in China are living in poverty. Poverty is more severe among students from the rural or Western parts of the country. The college need-based aid program must be improved because its targeting count error is over 50 percent. Lacking other income sources, poor students rely heavily on loans and working to finance their college education.
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Journal Articles

Evidence on the Impact of Sustained Exposure to Air Pollution on Life Expectancy from China's Hua River Policy

Yuyu Chen, Avraham Ebenstein, Michael Greenstone, Hongbin Li
PNAS , 2013
This paper's findings suggest that an arbitrary Chinese policy that greatly increases total suspended particulates (TSPs) air pollution is causing the 500 million residents of Northern China to lose more than 2.5 billion life years of life expectancy. The quasi-experimental empirical approach is based on China’s Huai River policy, which provided free winter heating via the provision of coal for boilers in cities north of the Huai River but denied heat to the south. Using a regression discontinuity design based on distance from the Huai River, we find that ambient concentrations of TSPs are about 184 μg/m3 [95% confidence interval (CI): 61, 307] or 55% higher in the north. Further, the results indicate that life expectancies are about 5.5 y (95% CI: 0.8, 10.2) lower in the north owing to an increased incidence of cardiorespiratory mortality. More generally, the analysis suggests that long-term exposure to an additional 100 μg/m3 of TSPs is associated with a reduction in life expectancy at birth of about 3.0 y (95% CI: 0.4, 5.6).
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Journal Articles

University Expansion in the BRIC Countries and the Global Information Economy

Martin Carnoy, Prashant Loyalka, Isak Froumin
Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning , 2013
Can the BRIC university systems greatly increase the quantity of graduates in these developing countries and simultaneously achieve high enough quality to compete successfully at the higher end of the global knowledge economy?
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Journal Articles

Does Financial Aid Help Poor Students Succeed in College?

Xiaobing Wang, Chengfang Liu, Linxiu Zhang, Ai Yue, Yaojiang Shi, James Chu, Scott Rozelle
China Economic Review , 2013

The rapid expansion of enrollment capacity in China’s colleges since the late 1990s has come at the price of high tuition hikes. China’s government has put forth financial aid programs to enable poor students to access higher education. Although studies have shown that poor high school students are indeed able to attend college when their test scores are high enough (that is, few are unable to attend when they are qualified to attend), the literature has not explored whether poor students have sufficient amounts of aid to thrive in college.

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Journal Articles

Providing Quality Infrastructure in Rural Villages: The Case of Rural Roads in China

Ho Lun Wong, Renfu Luo, Linxiu Zhang, Scott Rozelle
Journal of Development Economics , 2013

When seeking to build high quality and cost-effective infrastructure in rural villages, a fundamental question is: Who is better at doing so? Should the village leadership or a government agency above the village finance and/or manage the construction of the infrastructure project? To answer this question, we surveyed all rural road projects in 101 villages in rural China between 2003 and 2007 and measured the quality and per kilometer cost of each road. According to our analysis, road quality was higher when more of the project funds came from the government agency above.

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Journal Articles

Shifting Fiscal Control to Limit Cadre Power in China's Townships and Villages

Jean C. Oi, Kim Singer Babiarz, Linxiu Zhang, Renfu Luo, Scott Rozelle
The China Quarterly , 2012

In contrast to its decentralized political economy model of the 1980s, China took a surprising turn towards recentralization in the mid-1990s. Its fiscal centralization, starting with the 1994 tax reforms, is well known, but political recentralization also has been under way to control cadres directly at township and village levels. Little-noticed measures designed to tighten administrative and fiscal regulation began to be implemented during approximately the same period in the mid-1990s. Over time these measures have succeeded in hollowing out the power of village and township cadres.

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