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PPA Talk Series : The Autocratic Distributional Dilemma: Elite’s Perks and the Expansion of Public Benefits in China

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Speaker: Prof. Dongshu Liu, Assistant Professor, Department of Public and International Affairs, the City University of Hong Kong

Autocrats typically offer private benefits and privileges to political elites in return for their political loyalty. However, to sustain economic growth, autocrats must also address the escalating public demands for accountability and market liberalization, which inevitably restrict the private privileges of the political elites. This study examines how autocrats can satisfy these public demands without provoking a backlash from political elites. Specifically, it evaluates how the Chinese regime maintains the loyalty of political elites while implementing an anti-corruption campaign that deprives these elites of their access to benefits by utilizing budgetary data and examining the anti-corruption campaign in China from 2012-2016. We posit that autocrats pacify disgruntled officials by offering more fiscal and political support to local governments, enhancing private bureaucratic welfare, and reducing public welfare spending. Our survey experiment suggests that such strategies, despite undermining public interests, are tolerated by the public. This finding challenges the traditional belief that anti-corruption efforts in developing countries can enhance public welfare and governance.

About the Speaker

Dongshu Liu is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Public and International Affairs at the City University of Hong Kong. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Syracuse University. Dr. Liu's research primarily revolves around the political economy and public opinion of authoritarian regimes.

Date: 2024-04-12, Fri
Time: 16:00
Venue: Room 966, The Jockey Club Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU
Poster link: The Autocratic Distributional Dilemma_EY.jpg