China’s efforts on anti-corruption, centralization, and official calls for governing according to moral and national traditions are reshaping the country’s politics and economy. How do we understand these changes, and what do they imply for scholarship on nondemocratic politics? In terms of China, the changes taking place significantly alter politics in the Reform era but do not signal its end. To demonstrate this claim, this paper details both how these changes move away from prior Reform era actions and at the same time how they remain rooted in this period rather than indicating the beginning of a new era of Chinese politics. Reform Era governance has been aggressively technocratic, until the recent neopolitical turn. The decentralized economic governance of the early reform era emphasized a small number of statistical measures of performance, namely GDP growth and fiscal revenue. Combined with weak monitoring, this limited aperture generated solid growth outcomes but also produced significant negative externalities such as corruption, pollution, and local debt. As the costs of technocratic rule mounted, the center altered course, increasing monitoring of locals and promoting official morality among the officers of the party-state. Yet even though changes can be seen even in unexpected policy domains such as legal reform and urbanization, they retain continuity with the broad context of the Reform era emphasizing performance as justification for continued Party rule. What has changed is that performance is being decoupled from particular statistical outcome measures and instead replaced with a discourse of correct processes paired with an openness about repression. More broadly, these conclusions show that the new authoritarianism literature still has substantial space to explore how authoritarians rule.
State Advance and Retreat:
China’s State-Owned Enterprises after the Global Financial Crisis
State capitalism remains a crucial piece of China’s economic development and broader political economy. How have China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs) fared in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis? The recent rise and fall of SOEs in the wake of the global financial crisis illustrates political benefits and costs of China’s economic model. In its immediate aftermath, SOEs advanced their political and economic importance domestically and globally and engaged in a massive—and often wasteful—investment binge, in large part funded by loans and other policy favors associated with China’s stimulus package. Case studies of state-owned Yanzhou Coal’s investment binge and the court-ordered bankruptcy of privately-held East Star Airlines in 2009 highlight the preferences that connected firms following the loosening of credit associated with China’s stimulus package. Yet the moment of “state advance, private retreat” (guojin mintui) was fleeting with significant movement towards market-orientation since the 18th Party Congress.