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APARC and Korea Program Director Gi-Wook Shin recently joined the Japan Economic Foundation (JEF) to discuss his research project "Talent Flows, Brain Hubs, and Socioeconomic Development in Asia." The conversation was published in the May/June 2023 issue of the Japan SPOTLIGHT, the online journal of JEF.

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JS: How do you see the different situations vis-Ă -vis demography among Asia-Pacific nations? Some countries like Japan are suffering from depopulation while some are seeing an increase in population. How do you assess the political and economic implications?

Shin: As you mentioned, Japan and South Korea are going through very serious demographic crises with low birth rates, aging populations, and declines in the working-age population. On the other hand, India and many countries in Southeast Asia have very young populations, and we might expect an increase in talent mobility within the Asia-Pacific region. In the past, a lot of Chinese, Indian, and Korean students came to the United States and Europe. But now more people are going to Japan and South Korea. Their level of education has improved; the quality of universities in advanced Asian countries is quite good. We should think about the policy implications of the increase in regional talent mobility in the Asia-Pacific region.

JS: For example, India and Japan are referred to as complementary because India has lots of young people and Japan does not. Would you say that if Japan expanded opportunities for immigrants, it would make the relationship between Japan and India more complementary? Of course, India-Japan relations can be discussed in the context of skilled immigrants but there is still some disagreement on the issue of immigration of unskilled immigrants.

Shin: In the past, Japan and South Korea accepted largely unskilled labor from China and Southeast Asia. This unskilled migration will continue, but at the same time, Japan and South Korea need to accept more skilled migrants. India can be a good source. It is encouraging to see more foreign students who come to Japan, for example, for college and then stay to work. However, most foreigners leave after a few years of work. If you look at Australia, in contrast, many international students go there for college, stay, and eventually naturalize as Australian citizens. One may point out that Australia is very different from Japan or South Korea, which I partially agree with. However, until the 1970s, Australia was also promoting racial homogeneity. Under their “White Australia” policy, they were accepting only white Europeans, but couldn’t sustain the economy with the low population growth. They had to open up, promoting multiculturalism. This has led to an increase in immigrants from Asia, such as from China and India. Going back to your question, Japan and India can be complementary to each other: one needs talent, the other has a strong supply of IT workers.

JS: As you have just explained, the economic implications of this depopulation could cause us a shrinking economy. We should perhaps encourage the flow of talent to supplement the stagnant economy with immigrants – but what do you think about the political implications of this declining population in terms of security concerns?

Shin: Let me give you an example from South Korea. This is a big issue for South Korea because it maintains a large military. On the one hand, there is no way to maintain the military’s current size or level due to a shrinking population but on the other hand, I don’t think you can bring immigrants into the military. It’s not like bringing immigrants into a company. Another political implication is the change in the voting landscape as the proportion of older people or senior citizens is really increasing. They tend to be more conservative, in favor of conservative parties. This may not be an issue for Japan because the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) gets a lot of support from senior citizens anyway, but in South Korea and other countries where there is a regular change of power, this has potentially huge political implications.

JS: Looking at the possible merits of depopulation, some economists would say that of course depopulation has demerits, but it may still have some merits because individual wealth may increase. What is your perspective on this notion?

Shin: Some jobs can be replaced by robots or AI, and then not only may we not need so many people, but there may be less competition for jobs. Still, I think for any country to maintain the scale of its economy you must maintain a certain level of population. It is not only about production but also consumption. If you have a declining population then consumption will decline in tandem, which will negatively impact the economy. Japan has a fairly large population and the market may be good enough to be self-sufficient for now. But should the population become half of what it is today, then it probably may not be able to sustain the current scale of the economy. While overall you don’t want too many people, South Korea and Japan should be concerned about their declining populations.

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Depopulation is a concern shared by Japan and South Korea. Immigration of high-skilled labor could be a solution for mitigating it. In this regard, Japan SPOTLIGHT interviewed Prof. Gi-Wook Shin, who is working on a new research initiative seeking to examine the potential benefits of talent flows in the Asia-Pacific region.

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The Japanese public supports women’s advancement in society, finds the Stanford Japan Barometer, a survey platform launched by the Japan Program at Stanford University’s Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC). This result is somewhat surprising, considering Japan’s poor showing in global gender equality rankings.

Led by Professor of Sociology Kiyoteru Tsutsui, the Henri H. and Tomoye Takahashi Professor and director of the Japan Program at APARC, and Charles Crabtree, an assistant professor in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College and a former visiting assistant professor with the Japan Program, the Stanford Japan Barometer (SJB) is a periodic public opinion survey on political, economic, and social issues concerning contemporary Japan with three main parts: (1) questions about respondents’ demographic background; (2) a stable set of questions about support for policy issues, political parties, public institutions, and international entities; and (3) a thematically focused set of questions and experimental studies on topics of great relevance at the time of the survey. The survey is conducted with a national, quota-based sample of 8,000 Japanese residents.

In the first installation of the survey, conducted in late November 2022, the SJB examined issues concerning gender and sexuality in Japan. It found, among other results, that most Japanese are in favor of recognizing same-sex unions and support a legal change to allow married couples to keep separate surnames. The SJB also examined questions related to women’s advancement in Japanese society, the focus of the following report.

One prominent gender equality issue that often recurs in Japanese public discourse is women’s under-representation in prominent positions, especially in politics and business. According to the latest Global Gender Gap Report released by the World Economic Forum, Japan ranks 116th out of 146 countries in terms of gender equality. Japan fares well in the categories of Education and Health, but in Politics and Economy, it ranks 139th and 121st respectively. In another ranking on women’s role and influence in the workforce, the Glass-Ceiling Index compiled by The Economist, Japan ranks second-worst among the 29 developed countries surveyed. Japan barely avoided the lowest ranking (a dubious distinction taken by South Korea), but indeed ranks lowest in terms of the proportion of women in national parliaments (single or Lower House) among OECD countries, with only 10% of Lower House members being female.

To better understand this striking gender disparity, Tsutsui and Crabtree had respondents complete conjoint experiments that examined what types of candidates the Japanese public is more likely to support for a Diet seat and an external corporate board member. The results show, perhaps surprisingly, that Japanese people prefer women for these positions (52% to 48% for the Diet and 51% to 49% for corporate board). Women support female candidates more than men, but men also prefer female candidates over male ones, averaging across all other candidate characteristics such as education and occupational background. These differences are fairly stable across different ages, educational and family backgrounds, and political party support. Contrary to what gender representation in politics and corporate leadership would indicate, the SJB results suggest that there is robust support for women’s representation in those powerful positions across different spectrums of the Japanese public.

Tsutsui and Crabtree also asked a series of questions about views on gender roles and women’s advancement in Japanese society. Respondents were particularly supportive of more men taking parental leave and helping with childcare, registering 6.3 on a scale of 0-10 (5 being neutral and a number larger than 5 indicating support for the statement). They were not supportive of the statements about traditional gender roles, such as “Men should work outside the home and women should stay home” (3.8), or “Boys should be raised to be manly and girls should be raised to be womanly” (4.3). Interestingly, for all these questions, there is a statistically significant difference between male and female respondents, with men showing greater support for traditional gender roles, although the general trend is a shift away from traditional gender roles even among men.

On questions concerning women’s advancement in Japanese society, the Japanese public demonstrated strong support for the argument that more efforts should be made to increase the number of female politicians (5.8), executives (5.9), and board members (5.8). There is no substantial difference between men and women for these questions, indicating that the support for women’s advancement in politics and business is broadly shared across genders.

When it comes to using a quota to ensure women’s seats in the national Diet, management positions, and board rooms, the opinions are divided across the gender line, with women being significantly more supportive (5.1, 5.2, 5.2) than men (4.8, 4.7, 4.7). This likely indicates that men are threatened by the idea of quota as it would reduce the likelihood of their advancement toward these powerful positions.

Men’s resistance to quotas notwithstanding, overall, the Japanese public supports women’s advancement in society, perhaps recognizing the need for Japan to change in light of the embarrassing showing in global rankings of women’s empowerment. These results suggest that the slow pace of change in women’s advancement in Japan might be attributable to the behavior of gatekeepers, who are mostly older men who come from different socioeconomic backgrounds than the SJB’s average survey respondent, rather than to a lack of public support.


For media inquiries about the survey, please reach out to:
Noa Ronkin
APARC Associate Director for Communications and External Relations
noa.ronkin@stanford.edu

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Contrary to current levels of women’s under-representation in leadership positions in Japan, the Stanford Japan Barometer, a new periodic public opinion survey co-developed by Stanford sociologist Kiyoteru Tsutsui and Dartmouth College political scientist Charles Crabtree, finds that the Japanese public favors women for national legislature and corporate board member positions.

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Survey results from the Stanford Japan Barometer, launched by the Japan Program at Stanford University’s Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC), indicate that the Japanese public supports women’s advancement in society. In addition to this broad support, the survey found that, on the issue of married couples with the same last name in particular, roughly 70% of the Japanese public support a change to accommodate women who do not want to use their husband’s last name.

Led by Professor of Sociology Kiyoteru Tsutsui, the Henri H. and Tomoye Takahashi Professor and director of the Japan Program at APARC, and Charles Crabtree, an assistant professor in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College and a former visiting assistant professor with the Japan Program, the Stanford Japan Barometer is a periodic public opinion survey on political, economic, and social issues concerning contemporary Japan with three main parts: (1) questions about respondents’ demographic background; (2) a stable set of questions about support for policy issues, political parties, public institutions, and international entities; and (3) a thematically focused set of questions and experimental studies on topics of great relevance at the time of the survey. The survey is conducted with a national, quota-based sample of 8,000 Japanese residents.

In its first installation of the survey conducted in late November 2022, the Stanford Japan Barometer examined issues around gender and sexuality in Japan and found, among other results, that most Japanese support same-sex marriage, as reported in an earlier press release. The survey also examined the issue of married couples’ last names, which has emerged as a potent symbol of gender inequality in Japan over the past years.

In Japan, married couples are legally required to have the same last name. While the law does not require wives to adopt the last name of their husbands, in reality, more than 95% of married women do so. Many argue that this creates a hurdle for women to advance their careers, as they have to change their last name when they get married, and if they get divorced they have to change it back to their maiden name. Known to lag behind other highly developed economies when it comes to gender equality, Japan has struggled to place women in positions of authority and raise their earnings to a level closer to those of men. Many argue that changing the law to enable married couples to maintain different last names, i.e. keep their own last name, would facilitate a movement toward gender parity as a symbolic sign of support for women’s autonomy in public spaces and a means of practical support for them to advance their career.

The government has tracked public opinion on this issue, with a cabinet office periodically conducting a survey on this topic. In the most recent government survey from 2022, there was a decline in support for a legal change to allow couples to maintain different last names and an increase in support for facilitating the use of a maiden name as the common name in workplaces, compared to the previous survey by the same office conducted in 2017. These results triggered a controversy around this issue, and media allegations surfaced that the survey question was manipulated in such a way as to decrease support for a legal change and increase support for use of a maiden name as a common name, hence pleasing the conservative ruling party LDP leaders. A debate followed as to whether the changes in the question format and answer options contributed to the results that suited what the ruling LDP wanted.

To test the validity of these allegations, Tsutsui and Crabtree conducted an experiment randomly assigning respondents to answer two versions of the government survey under scrutiny, from 2017 and 2022. They found that the survey question and answer format significantly affected the results, as support for a legal name change was at 57% when the respondents were assigned the 2017 version but 30% when they answered the 2022 version, while support for using maiden names as common names found only 19% support in the 2017 version but 39% in the 2022 version. These results provide strong evidence that it was the question format that changed the results between 2017 and 2022. The exact level of support among the Japanese public for a legal change on this issue and how public opinion might have changed over the recent past remain to be seen.

Another thing to note about these results is that in either version of the survey, support for the status quo — married couples having the same last name with no accommodations — is low, at 23% in the 2017 version and 30% in the 2022 version. This indicates that the Japanese public largely recognizes that a change is needed on this issue of married couples’ last names in order to accommodate women seeking career advancement. Tsutsui and Crabtree further examined who still resists the change and found, in their multivariate analysis, that status quo supporters have completed fewer years in school, are currently married, have children, and support Prime Minister Kishida at higher levels. Interestingly, they find a quadratic relationship when it comes to income, showing that both those at the low- and high end of the income distribution are more likely to support the status quo.

Next, Tsutsui and Crabtree conducted an experiment on different arguments that might influence support for a legal change to allow married couples to keep different last names. These arguments focused on several themes. In terms of tradition, some respondents read a prompt that argued that the custom in Japan is for married couples to have the same last name, while others read an argument that married couples in Japan kept different last names up until the first decades of the Meiji era and that is more of Japan’s tradition. Similarly, the researchers presented both pro and con arguments in terms of the social and international reputation costs of legalizing married couples with different last names, as well as the fairness of the practice from the point of view of gender equality and human rights principles.

The results show that an argument about social costs — how allowing married couples to maintain different last names would weaken family bonds with harmful effects on children — is the only one that seems to substantially change public attitudes, reducing support for a legal change. The effect is substantial, roughly 1/7 of a standard deviation, and suggests that it is easier to mobilize opposition to than support for changing the law, a finding with consequences for advocates and opponents of the legal change.

These results reflect complex gender politics at play in Japan. Whatever the intentions of the survey designers for the 2017 and 2022 government surveys, the question and answer formats they used have a significant impact on how much support can be found for married couples keeping different last names. On the other hand, the Japanese public largely recognizes that a change is needed, demonstrating broad support for some kind of change to accommodate calls for women to use their maiden name even after marriage.

As the debate on this issue continues, there is a need to observe how future surveys ask questions about it since public support for a legal change can be influenced by the question framing, format, and answer options.


For media inquiries about the survey, please reach out to:
Noa Ronkin
APARC Associate Director for Communications and External Relations
noa.ronkin@stanford.edu

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Reflecting complex gender politics at play in Japan, the Stanford Japan Barometer, a new periodic public opinion survey co-developed by Stanford sociologist Kiyoteru Tsutsui and Dartmouth College political scientist Charles Crabtree, finds that the Japanese public largely supports a legal change to allow married couples to keep separate surnames.

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The Japan Program at Stanford University’s Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC) is pleased to announce the launch of the Stanford Japan Barometer, a periodic public opinion survey on political, economic, and social issues concerning contemporary Japan. The Stanford Japan Barometer consists of three parts: (1) questions about respondents’ demographic background; (2) a stable set of questions about support for policy issues, political parties, public institutions, and international entities; and (3) a thematically focused set of questions and experimental studies on topics of great relevance at the time of the survey. The survey is conducted with a national, quota-based sample of 8,000 Japanese residents.

The Stanford Japan Barometer is developed and led by Professor of SociologyKiyoteru Tsutsui, the Henri H. and Tomoye Takahashi Professor and Senior Fellow in Japanese Studies at APARC and director of the Japan Program, andCharles Crabtree, an assistant professor in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College and a former visiting assistant professor with the Japan Program.

For their initial survey conducted in late November 2022, Tsutsui and Crabtree used the third thematically focused component to examine issues related to gender and sexuality in Japanese politics today. In this component, they asked questions about same-sex marriage, a topic that has attracted a great deal of attention in recent weeks after one of the Executive Secretaries to the Prime Minister made discriminatory statements about same-sex couples and subsequently had to step down from his position.

The results from this part of the survey show that overall about 47.2% of the Japanese public support potential legislation to legalize same-sex marriage, roughly 15.8% oppose it, and approximately 36.9% neither support nor oppose it. Consistent with other recent surveys on this topic in Japan, stated support for same-sex marriage seems rather high with only 16% explicitly opposing it.

Later in this thematically focused section of the survey, Tsutsui and Crabtree examined how a range of common media frames might change people’s minds about same-sex marriage, adding prompts that made both supportive and opposing arguments about same-sex marriage. These arguments focused on several themes. In terms of tradition, the researchers presented some respondents with the view that the tradition in Japan is that marriage is a union between opposite sexes, others with the view that Japan has traditionally been tolerant of same-sex relations ever since the Sengoku era (16th century). Similarly, the researchers presented both pro and con arguments in terms of the impact of legalizing same-sex marriages on depopulation in Japan and the country’s international reputation, as well as the fairness of same-sex marriages from the point of view of constitutional rights and human rights principles.

The results show that respondents tend to become more supportive of same-sex marriage when they are presented with an argument that not allowing same-sex marriage is unfair from the point of view of human rights and gender equality. Based on these findings and the results of the first part of the survey, it seems that Japanese attitudes to same-sex marriage are relatively supportive and could be made even more supportive when human rights principles are mobilized.

In another section of this survey, Tsutsui and Crabtree fielded a set of experiments that provide perspective on how these seemingly egalitarian attitudes toward same-sex marriage play out in practice. Specifically, the researchers had respondents complete conjoint experiments aimed at better understanding what types of candidates the Japanese public is more likely to support for a Diet seat and an external corporate board member. In contrast to the results described above, the findings show that candidates in same-sex relations received less support (45% to 55% for the Diet and 43.5% to 56.5% for corporate board), revealing substantial discriminatory attitudes toward same-sex couples when it comes to giving them prominent public roles.

This preference appears driven by men, as women respondents exhibit no discrimination against same-sex couples in either context. It also appears driven by age: people over 70 only selected same-sex couples as a candidate for the Diet and board membership around 30% of the time, while those younger than 30 actually slightly prefer same-sex couple candidates.

In sum, the inaugural Stanford Japan Barometer reveals that the Japanese public generally supports same-sex marriage even though Japan is the only country among the G7 nations that does not legally recognize same-sex unions. However, some Japanese have reservations about people in same-sex relations occupying high-level public positions, revealing the limits of public acceptance of LGBTQ communities.

The survey also included questions and experimental components that unveil much about public support for women representation in the Diet and corporate boards, and about respondent attitudes toward couples keeping different last names after marriage. The researchers will share those results in subsequent press releases.


For media inquiries about the survey, please reach out to APARC Communications Manager Michael Breger: mbreger@stanford.edu. For inquiries in Japanese, contact Japan Program Coordinator Kana Igarashi Limpanukorn: kilimpan@stanford.edu.

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The initial set of results of the Stanford Japan Barometer, a new periodic public opinion survey co-developed by Stanford sociologist Kiyoteru Tsutsui and Dartmouth College political scientist Charles Crabtree, indicate that most Japanese are in favor of recognizing same-sex unions and reveal how framing can influence the public attitude toward LGBTQ communities.

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In 2004, when Stanford sociologist Xueguang Zhou deliberated on his next research project, he realized he had grown out of touch with China as radical reforms were enacted and massive economic growth transformed the nation. So he immersed himself in fieldwork in a northern Chinese rural township to see the changes firsthand.

That fieldwork led Zhou to delve into the workings of China’s massive bureaucracy in an attempt to answer the question: How is China governed? The empirically-informed theoretical framework Zhou developed to address this question is the subject of his new book, The Logic of Governance in China: An Organizational Approach (Cambridge University Press). We spoke with Zhou, the Kwoh-Ting Li Professor in Economic Development, a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and APARC faculty, about the book and some of the insights it offers into the institutions and mechanisms in the governance of China. Watch the conversation:

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How does policy formulated in Beijing translate to and get executed at local levels? The problem of how to govern China from a centralized seat of power has been, as Zhou says, “a fundamental tension” for thousands of years. Beijing tends to move “decision rights and resources” to the center, although these are exactly what is needed for effective governance at the local level.

Through his years of fieldwork, Zhou was able to develop a “bottom-up kind of approach to understanding how China has been governed by macro policies [...]  implemented through local bureaucrats.” This approach, he says, is largely missing from studies of contemporary Chinese society, which tend to focus on Beijing’s top-down decision-making. Zhou’s framework explains how — given the fundamental tension between Beijing’s “all-encompassing role” and local governance — domestic policy gets effectively carried out at the municipal or even village levels.

A Paved Road to Every Village

One phenomenon through which Zhou looks at how national policy translates to the local level is the case of the “Paved Road to Every Village” (PREV) project. When this project was launched by the provincial government in 2004, there were ample large highways in the region, but villagers were still forced to traverse rutted dirt roads that were prone to flooding in the rainy season, a clear obstacle to growing the agricultural economy. 

 

The growth and energy of the Chinese economy have not been a result of direct government activity, but rather of government use of private entrepreneurs to participate in public projects, financing, and development.
Xueguang Zhou

Project funding, however, was complicated. Beijing was supplying 70,000 renminbi (RMB) per kilometer of road, but the actual cost was RMB 240,000/km, so villages had to come up with the rest (for context, the average per capita annual income in the region was 3,000 RMB). Facing such a deficit, many villages simply refused to take part in PREV. Zhou’s fascinating case study looks at two village leaders — one entrepreneurial, one reluctant — who decided to take up the challenge.

To explain how projects like this get funded in China, Zhou expands on Hungarian economist Janos Kornai’s concept of “soft budget constraints.” Kornai saw that in a socialist economy, state ownership of enterprise meant that factories or companies experiencing financial difficulties had to be rescued by the state. As Zhou explains, the “concept is upward, demanding new resources” from the state. In the Chinese context, however, local authorities move downward to, for example, the companies in their region. That’s why Zhou calls the phenomenon inverted soft budget constraints: at the local level, officials attempt to enlist private enterprises to underwrite government projects. Why would they be willing to do that? Businesses understand that if they do fund such projects, then the officials will later provide “privileged access” to the resources for other government projects.

This reliance on local enterprises to accomplish national programs illustrates another important lesson for Zhou, who says that the growth and energy of the Chinese economy have not been a result of direct government activity, but rather the government has made use of “private entrepreneurs [...] to participate in this kind of public project, financing, and development.”

This process, however, does not always work as expected. Officials can end up compelled to rely on informal social ties to purchase required items like cement, sand, and equipment on credit, which can incur huge collective debts that the village is unable to repay. In the end, these debts can do great harm to the financial viability of small villages. This sort of ad hoc funding is problematic, Zhou observes, because both entrepreneurs and villagers “want to live in a more certain environment,” where necessary projects are well-financed, rather than resorting to a desperate attempt to gather resources by any means possible.

The Distribution of Authority in the Bureaucratic State

In another case study, one that looks at environmental regulation, a doctoral student Zhou had been directing was embedded in a municipal environmental protection bureau during the implementation of a five-year plan by the central government’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) to control sulfur dioxide and chemical oxygen demand (an indicator of water pollution level). 

Such plans translate to thousands of projects nationwide, making the task load impossibly large for the central government to handle alone. To explain how authority rights are distributed among levels of government Zhou developed a “control rights” theory. In this case, that means the central government (principal) would retain the right to set pollution goals, the provincial bureau (supervisor) might retain the right of inspection, while the local governments (agents) might have the right to performance appraisal and incentive provision. Zhou holds that these control rights are distributed according to the different modes of Chinese governance, ranging from “tightly controlled,” where the central government retains all rights, to a federalism mode, where all rights are given away to the supervisor level.

Bargaining and Collusion

Zhou uses this and ancillary models to understand bureaucratic coping behaviors. One of those is bargaining. He offers examples of how municipal or county officials reacted to poor pollution inspections by bargaining with the provincial levels and redirecting blame to others, often successfully changing report results in their favor. 

Another strategy is collusion, which he argues “has become an informal but highly institutionalized practice,” one that is “common knowledge.” This was witnessed, for example, during provincial family-planning inspections. To prevent possible fraud or manipulation of data, provincial inspectors would have teams conduct unannounced “sudden attack” inspections. But local officials used “guerrilla tactics” to surveil and disrupt the provincial team’s efforts. Upon discovering that a provincial inspection team has arrived, local officials might record the team’s license plate numbers and share those with other officials elsewhere, and then begin shadowing them, providing mobile phone updates on their routes and possible next destinations.

Other collusive strategies might include the manipulation of data, or even ranking counties with good performance at the bottom of a list so that they are more likely to be the ones inspected, with the result being a glowing report

Zhou’s goal is not to expose these behaviors but to understand them. If we look closely at apparently contradictory bureaucratic patterns and cases, he says, then “we can theorize about the rationales behind why they behave this way, and under different circumstances, they behave differently.”

China’s zero-COVID policy is an example of campaign-style mobilization, a political instrument that Beijing has routinely deployed to achieve policy objectives and to reassert control at the local level.
Xueguang Zhou

Protest in the Chinese Context

In the last part of his book, Zhou looks at how individuals and social groups respond to authoritarian rule. How can large-scale collective action arise in China, where organizing outside of state-sponsored collective actions is forbidden? Zhou answers that the state — by imposing similar conditions across the country and reducing the majority of Chinese citizens to the same level — fosters the cultivation of similar grievances. At some point, this erupts into open protests, or alternatively, what Zhou calls “collective inaction,” like noncompliance with official campaigns. 

The recent protests in China against COVID measures are a perfect example of this phenomenon. After years under the strict zero-COVID policy, masses of Chinese citizens have similar grievances, leading to open protests. Zhou observes that “China’s zero-COVID policy is an example of campaign-style mobilization, a political instrument that Beijing has routinely deployed to achieve policy objectives and to reassert control at the local level.” But with this approach, there is a danger that local officials can become overzealous. In the case of the COVID pandemic, officials have been highly motivated to avoid responsibility for outbreaks.

By revealing the logic behind China’s governance, my book was probably a threat to China’s charismatic leaders, and also to the Leninist party, the very foundation of that party governance.
Xueguang Zhou

A Threat to China’s Charismatic Leaders

Another idea in Zhou’s book is that of charismatic leadership, which he asserts is “essential to the legitimacy of the Chinese state.” The Chinese Communist Party must continue to persuade citizens that they must “put all [their] power into the hands of one person or one ruling party.” As the deification of Xi Jinping in recent years shows, this is accomplished by depicting the leader and party as all-knowing and possessing “a mighty power to do all the right things.”

​​"Every bureaucracy seeks to increase the superiority of the professionally informed by keeping their knowledge and intentions secret," political economist and sociologist Max Weber wrote in his treatise Economy and Society. The 'official secret' is the source of power and the specific invention of bureaucracy, he said, “and nothing is so fanatically defended by the bureaucracy as this attitude.”

Zhou’s empirically-informed findings and unified theory, however, shed light precisely on the secretive workings of the Chinese bureaucracy. This may explain why the original Chinese version of Zhou’s book, published in 2017, was “unshelved” after its initial print run, a euphemism for withdrawing a book from circulation and essentially making it disappear. When asked what he thought was the reason for the book’s disappearance from the Chinese market, Zhou invokes Weber’s idea of disenchantment, and suggests that by revealing the logic behind China’s governance, his book was “probably a threat to China’s charismatic leaders, and also to the Leninist party, the very foundation of that party governance.”

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In a new book, Stanford sociologist and APARC faculty Xueguang Zhou offers a unified theoretical framework to explain how China's centralized political system maintains governance and how this process produces obstacles to professionalism, bureaucratic rationalism, and the rule of law.

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Lee Kong Chian NUS-Stanford Fellow on Contemporary Southeast Asia, 2022-23
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Chirantan Chatterjee is an applied microeconomist and a Reader in the Economics of Innovation at the University of Sussex. He is also a Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and Visiting Faculty, IIM Ahmedabad, India. His research interests are in the economics of innovation, pharmaceutical economics, and global health. He has published in top peer-reviewed journals like Management Science, RAND Journal of Economics, Journal of Development Economics, Journal of Health Economics, Research Policy, Production and Operations Management, Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Environmental Economics & Management and Social Science & Medicine among others. His new co-edited book on Covid-19 and Grand Challenges for Health, Innovation and Economy is forthcoming in 2023 with World Scientific. Chatterjee's research has in the past been supported by the NSF during his dissertation work at Carnegie Mellon University from where he obtained his PhD in 2011. His current research is supported by the Wellcome Trust India Alliance & Johns Hopkins Alliance for a Healthy World. Chatterjee has also consulted for the United Nations, World Bank, and the World Health Organization on Covid-19, Universal Health Coverage, and Incentives for Medical Innovation. View more on his personal website at www.chirantanchatterjee.com.

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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.

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Chapter in the volume Economies, Institutions and Territories: Dissecting Nexuses in a Changing World.

 

Authors
Ling Zhu
Xueguang Zhou
Book Publisher
Routledge
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