The Rule of Mandates: How China Governs Over Law and Democracy



Mayling Birney, LSE

Date and Time

March 15, 2013 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM



Open to the public.

RSVP required by 5PM March 14.


Philippines Conference Room

In this talk, Mayling Birney presents evidence that China uses a distinctive form of governing, what she calls a “rule of mandates” in contrast to a rule of law. Under a rule of mandates, standards for accountability are relative rather than absolute, as lower officials are effectively directed to adjust the local implementation of the center's own laws and policies in order to meet the center's highest priorities. In China, this governing system has helped promote stability and growth, yet curtailed the potential impact of rule of law and democratic reforms. Birney demonstrates this impact by drawing on evidence from original surveys, interviews, and archival work. Yet she also explains why this governing system is likely to become more problematic for China in the future, potentially jeopardizing even the economic growth and stability it has thus far supported.


Dr. Mayling Birney (London School of Economics) is a comparative political scientist with a special expertise in China. She is currently finishing a book about China’s distinctive form of authoritarian governing, in which she highlights its consequences for stability, justice, rule of law, and political reform. Prior to arriving at LSE, Dr. Birney was jointly appointed as a fellow in the Princeton University Society of Fellows and a lecturer in the Woodrow Wilson School.  She has also served as a fellow at the Brookings Institution and as a Legislative Aide in the United States Senate. She holds a PhD in political science from Yale University, an MSc in economics from LSE, and a BA in government from Harvard University.

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