"Authoritarian Gridlock? Haste and Delay in the Chinese Legislative System"
Rory Truex, Assistant Professor of Politics and Public Affairs, Princeton University.
Co-sponsored by the Department of Government, Harvard University.
Dan Smith, Faculty Associate. Assistant Professor, Department of Government, Harvard University.
Yuhua Wang, Assistant Professor, Department of Government, Harvard University.
Policy gridlock is often viewed as a uniquely democratic phenomenon. The institutional checks and balances that produce gridlock are absent from authoritarian systems, leading many observers to romanticize "authoritarian efficiency" and policy dynamism. The paper develops a theory that relates authoritarian policy change to the presence of "soft vetoes" within the ruling coalition and citizen attention shocks. A unique law-level dataset from the Chinese case shows that roughly one third of laws are not passed within the period specified in legislative plans, and about 10% of laws take over ten years to pass. Qualitative analysis of China's Food Safety Law, coupled with shadow case studies of two other laws, demonstrates the plausibility of the theory.