Comparative Politics Speaker Series


Thursday, March 23, 2017, 12:00pm to 2:00pm


CGIS Knafel Building, 1737 Cambridge Street, Bowie-Vernon Room (K262)

"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. 


Jessie Bullock

Andrew Leber

Shannon Parker

Faculty Advisors:

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.