“The Rise and Fall of Local Elections in China: Theory and Empirical Evidence on the Autocrat’s Trade-Off”

“The Rise and Fall of Local Elections in China: Theory and Empirical Evidence on the Autocrat’s Trade-Off”

Monica Martinez-Bravo, Gerard Padró I Miquel, Nancy Qian and Yang Yao

NBER Working Paper No. 24032

In the late 80’s and early 90’s China has introduced elections at the local level. The functions of these locally elected bodies are typically managerial or administrative, with little political consequence. Hence, existing theories that explain the presence of elections at the elite level do not provide a good framework for understanding the presence of local elections. Thus, the main goal of the paper by Martinez-Bravo et al. is to address this gap in the literature and provide a theory and empirical evidence on the conditions under which an autocratic regime would allow local elections.