Scholarship Highlight: Haste and Delay in the Chinese Legislative System

Professor Rory Truex of Princeton University has kindly permitted me to publish the abstract of his recent article, Authoritarian Gridlock? Understanding Delay in the Chinese Legislative System, as the second part of this Blog’s Scholarship Highlight series, which surveys academic scholarship relating to the NPC. This article will appear in a future print issue of the Comparative Legal Studies and is now available online at this link (subscription required). [Disclosure: I provided research assistance to Rory on this article.]

Legislative 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. A unique data set from the Chinese case demonstrates that authoritarian regimes can have trouble passing laws and changing policies—48% of laws are not passed within the period specified in legislative plans, and about 12% of laws take more than 10 years to pass. This article develops a theory that relates variation in legislative outcomes to the absence of division within the ruling coalition and citizen attention shocks. Qualitative analysis of China’s Food Safety Law, coupled with shadow case studies of two other laws, illustrates the plausibility of the theoretical mechanisms. Division and public opinion play decisive roles in authoritarian legislative processes.

Rory Truex is Assistant Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton. His research focuses on Chinese politics and theories of authoritarian rule. More information on his background and research can be found on his website.


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