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Village Elections, Public Goods Investments and Pork Barrel Politics, Chinese-style


  • Renfu Luo
  • Linxiu Zhang
  • Jikun Huang
  • Scott Rozelle


A key issue in political economy concerns the accountability that governance structures impose on public officials and how elections and representative democracy influence the allocation of public resources. In this paper we utilise a unique set of survey data set from nearly 2450 randomly selected villages describing China's recent progress in village governance reforms and its relationship to the provision of public goods in rural China between 1998 and 2004. Two sets of questions are investigated using an empirical framework based on a theoretical model in which local governments must decide to allocate fiscal resources between public goods investments and other expenditures. The empirical analysis - both in the descriptive and econometric analyses - suggests that when the village leader is elected directly, ceteris paribus, the provision of public goods rises (compared to when the leader is not elected directly by villagers). Thus, in this way it is possible to conclude that democratisation - at least at the village level in rural China - appears to increase the quantity of public goods investment. Second, we seek to understand the mechanism that is driving the results. Also based on the survey data, we find that when village leaders (who had been directly elected) were able to implement more public projects during their terms of office, they, as the incumbent, were more likely to be re-elected. In this way, we argue that the link between elections and investment may be a rural China version of pork barrel politics.

Suggested Citation

  • Renfu Luo & Linxiu Zhang & Jikun Huang & Scott Rozelle, 2010. "Village Elections, Public Goods Investments and Pork Barrel Politics, Chinese-style," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(4), pages 662-684.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jdevst:v:46:y:2010:i:4:p:662-684
    DOI: 10.1080/00220380903318061

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:pubeco:v:152:y:2017:i:c:p:119-132 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Gerard Padro i Miquel & Nancy Qian & Yang Yao, 2012. "Social Fragmentation, Public Goods and Elections: Evidence from China," NBER Working Papers 18633, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Kieu-Trang Nguyen & Quoc-Anh Do & Anh Tran, 2011. "One Mandarin Benefits the Whole Clan: Hometown Infrastructure and Nepotism in an Autocracy," Working Papers 18-2011, Singapore Management University, School of Economics.
    4. He, Quqiong & Pan, Ying & Sarangi, Sudipta, 2017. "Lineage-based Heterogeneity and Cooperative Behavior in Rural China," MPRA Paper 80865, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Petra Persson & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 2016. "The Limits Of Career Concerns In Federalism: Evidence From China," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 14(2), pages 338-374, April.
    6. Gerard Padro -i-Miquel & Nancy Qian, 2015. "Making Democracy Work: Culture, Social Capital and Elections in China," Working Papers id:6619, eSocialSciences.
    7. Chenggang Xu, 2011. "The Fundamental Institutions of China's Reforms and Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(4), pages 1076-1151, December.
    8. Martinez-Bravo, Monica & Padr� i Miquel, Gerard & Qian, Nancy & Yao, Yan, 2017. "The Rise and Fall of Local Elections in China: Theory and Empirical Evidence on the Autocrat's Trade-off," CEPR Discussion Papers 12439, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Xu, Cheng-Gang, 2010. "The Institutional Foundations of China’s Reforms and Development," CEPR Discussion Papers 7654, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    10. Mu, Ren & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2014. "Do elected leaders in a limited democracy have real power? Evidence from rural China," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 17-27.
    11. Jikun Huang & Yu Liu & Will Martin & Scott Rozelle, 2010. "Agricultural Trade Reform and Rural Prosperity: Lessons from China," NBER Chapters,in: China's Growing Role in World Trade, pages 397-423 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • H54 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Infrastructures
    • H71 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue


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