This is a chapter from the volume Economies, Institutions and Territories: Dissecting Nexuses in a Changing World, edited ByLuca Storti, Giulia Urso, and Neil Reid (Routledge, 2022).
Historically, local elites play a central role in governance in traditional Chinese society. This social stratum has been conspicuously absent in the People’s Republic of China since 1949. This chapter revisits and examines the role of local elites in China’s governance and economic development. Conceptually, the authors argue that stable bureaucrats in China’s local governments who stay in a locality in their career play the role of local elites, with a double identity as state agents and as representatives of local interests. Empirically, they examine patterns of “movers” and “stayers” in bureaucratic mobility in over 100 counties (districts) in Jiangsu Province and identify the location and distribution of those local officials as local elites in administrative jurisdictions. On this basis, they examine the effect of local elites on economic development.