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Political Selection in China: the Complementary Roles of Connections and Performance


  • Jia, Ruixue

    (University of California San Diego)

  • Kudamatsu, Masayuki

    (Institute for International Economic Studies)

  • Seim, David

    () (Department of Economics, University of Toronto)


Who becomes a top politician in China? We focus on provincial leaders a pool of candidates for top political office and examine how their chances of promotion depend on their performance in office and connections with top politicians. Our empirical analysis, based on the curriculum vitae of Chinese politicians, shows that connections and performance are complements in the Chinese political selection process. This complementarity is stronger the younger provincial leaders are relative to their connected top leaders. To provide one plausible interpretation of these empirical findings, we propose a simple theory in which the complementarity arises because connections foster loyalty of junior officials to senior ones, thereby allowing incumbent top politicians to select competent provincial leaders without risking being ousted. Auxiliary evidence suggests that the documented promotion pattern does not distort the allocation of talent. Our findings shed some light on why a political system known for patronage can still select competent leaders.

Suggested Citation

  • Jia, Ruixue & Kudamatsu, Masayuki & Seim, David, 2014. "Political Selection in China: the Complementary Roles of Connections and Performance," Working Paper Series 1003, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:1003

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    16. repec:aea:aecrev:v:107:y:2017:i:8:p:2204-42 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Timothy Besley & Olle Folke & Torsten Persson & Johanna Rickne, 2017. "Gender Quotas and the Crisis of the Mediocre Man: Theory and Evidence from Sweden," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(8), pages 2204-2242, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Juan Carlos Suárez Serrato & Xiao Yu Wang & Shuang Zhang, 2016. "The Limits of Meritocracy: Screening Bureaucrats Under Imperfect Verifiability," NBER Working Papers 21963, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Raymond Fisman & Jing Shi & Yongxiang Wang & Rong Xu, 2017. "Social Ties and Favoritism in Chinese Science," NBER Working Papers 23130, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. 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.
    4. repec:oup:qjecon:v:132:y:2017:i:4:p:1877-1914. is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Matilde Bombardini & Bingjing Li, 2016. "Trade, Pollution and Mortality in China," NBER Working Papers 22804, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Wu, Mingqin & Chen, Bin, 2016. "Assignment of provincial officials based on economic performance: Evidence from China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 60-75.
    7. Michael Rochlitz, 2016. "Political Loyalty Vs Economic Performance: Evidence from Machine Politics in Russia’S Regions," HSE Working papers WP BRP 34/PS/2016, National Research University Higher School of Economics.
    8. Pranab Bardhan, 2016. "State and Development: The Need for a Reappraisal of the Current Literature," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 54(3), pages 862-892, September.
    9. Ernesto Dal Bó & Frederico Finan & Olle Folke & Torsten Persson & Johanna Rickne, 2017. "Who Becomes A Politician?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 132(4), pages 1877-1914.
    10. repec:eee:enepol:v:106:y:2017:i:c:p:201-211 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Patrick Francois & Francesco Trebbi & Kairong Xiao, 2016. "Factions in Nondemocracies: Theory and Evidence from the Chinese Communist Party," NBER Working Papers 22775, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item


    Political turnover; Economic performance; Personnel control; Social networks;

    JEL classification:

    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H70 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - General
    • J63 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Turnover; Vacancies; Layoffs
    • P30 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions - - - General

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