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Federalism with and without Political Centralization: China versus Russia

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  • Olivier Blanchard
  • Andrei Shleifer

Abstract

In China, local governments have actively contributed to the growth of new firms. In Russia, local governments have typically stood in the way, be it through taxation, regulation, or corruption. There appears to be two main reasons behind the behavior of local governments in Russia. First, capture by old firms, leading local governments to protect them from competition by new entrants. Second, competition for rents by local officials, eliminating incentives for new firms to enter. The question then is why this has not happened in China. We argue that the answer lies in the degree of political centralization present in China, but not in Russia. Transition in China has taken place under the tight control of the communist party. As a result, the central government has been in a strong position both to reward and to punish local administrations, reducing both the risk of local capture and the scope of competition for rents. By contrast, transition in Russia has come with the emergence of a partly dysfunctional democracy. The central government has been neither strong enough to impose its views, nor strong enough to set clear rules about the sharing of the proceeds of growth. As a result, local governments have had few incentives either to resist capture or to rein in competition for rents. Based on the experience of China, a number of researchers have argued that federalism could play a central role in development. We agree, but with an important caveat. We believe the experience of Russia indicates that another ingredient is crucial, namely political centralization.

Suggested Citation

  • Olivier Blanchard & Andrei Shleifer, 2000. "Federalism with and without Political Centralization: China versus Russia," NBER Working Papers 7616, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7616
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Simon Johnson & Daniel Kaufman & Andrei Shleifer, 1997. "The Unofficial Economy in Transition," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 28(2), pages 159-240.
    2. Zhuravskaya, Ekaterina V., 2000. "Incentives to provide local public goods: fiscal federalism, Russian style," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 337-368, June.
    3. Yingyi Qian & Barry R. Weingast, 1997. "Federalism as a Commitment to Reserving Market Incentives," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(4), pages 83-92, Fall.
    4. Jin, Hehui & Qian, Yingyi & Weingast, Barry R., 2005. "Regional decentralization and fiscal incentives: Federalism, Chinese style," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(9-10), pages 1719-1742, September.
    5. Shleifer, Andrei, 1997. "Government in transition," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(3-5), pages 385-410, April.
    6. Frye, Timothy & Shleifer, Andrei, 1997. "The Invisible Hand and the Grabbing Hand," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(2), pages 354-358, May.
    7. Alwyn Young, 2000. "The Razor's Edge: Distortions and Incremental Reform in the People's Republic of China," NBER Working Papers 7828, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • P2 - Political Economy and Comparative Economic Systems - - Socialist and Transition Economies
    • P3 - Political Economy and Comparative Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions

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