Ties that Bind: Connections, Institutions and Economics in the People’s Republic of China
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This dissertation will contend that China’s paramount leader, the General Secretary,
in order to compete with rival elites, in the face of strong institutional constraints
and limitations upon how they can engage in that competition, manipulates the
distribution of state fiscal resources to benefit their political clients in the provinces.
This newly empowered client network aid their political survival in office and is
constitutive of their political influence both while in office and after they have left it.
Specifically, the dissertation expects that the General Secretary will direct greater
amounts of intergovernmental transfers into provinces which are run by their political
clients. More narrowly, it expects that the effect will be found only for specific-
purpose transfers, which are largely under the discretion of the incumbent General
Secretary, and will not be found for general-purpose transfers, the allocation of which
is less subject to political manipulation by the incumbent. These transfers, in turn,
generate additional taxable economic activity in the provinces into which they are
directed. This augmented taxable economic activity leads to increased collection of
fiscal revenue in the provinces of incumbent clients. This, in turn, makes these clients
more promising candidates for future advancement within the party, because fiscal
revenue collection is a core metric for the advancement of elites at the provincial level,
as adjudicated by the CCP’s organization department. Consequently, incumbent
General Secretaries are able to push forward the careers of their provincial clients,
and thus advance their own political interests, through systematic favoritism in their
ivdistribution of specific purpose intergovernmental transfers. Importantly, one of the
key theoretical results of this work is the finding that Chinese central leaders are
institutionally constrained to make their clients measure up and that the artificial
augmentation of the provincial fiscal revenues of clients are a key means by which they
ensure that their clients ”make the grade” in the eyes of the organization department.
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