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Sitting Pretty: Local Representation in China's Party Leadership Bodies

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Within the Leninist hierarchy of China’s Communist Party, the practice of assigning some local leaders seats on higher-level leadership bodies presents a puzzle. Not only do provincial leaders hold seats in China’s central Politburo; it is common for city-level leaders to hold seats in the provincial party standing committees (PPSCs) that run China’s regions. Whereas some scholars understand the concurrent appointments of local leaders to higher-level decision-making bodies as a mode of top-down control and co-optation, other work sees such representation as a channel for the assertion of local interests and autonomy. In this paper, we aim to adjudicate between these different views empirically by analyzing the representation of city leaders on China’s PPS Cs. We develop a typology of territorial representation that differentiates “control”, “co-optation”, “coordination”, and “concession”, and we use quantitative and qualitative evidence to assess how closely the actual dynamics of local governance and resource allocation in China’s provinces fit these different models. Our analysis suggests that local representation serves varying purposes, but we find little evidence that concurrent appointments harm local interests.


Dr Jaros’s research looks at the politics of subnational development and central-local relations in contemporary China. Prior to joining the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies at Oxford, he was a China Public Policy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center, and I earned his Ph.D. in Political Science from the Department of Government at Harvard. He also hold an A.B. in Public and International Affairs and a Certificate in Chinese Language and Culture from Princeton University, and a Graduate Certificate in Chinese Studies from the Hopkins-Nanjing Center.

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