China's Quality of Government in Comparative Perspective
China's government alternately appears in western scholarship as an idealized meritocracy or a corrupt cohort of venal officials. Yet empirical attempts to place China's government in comparative perspective are limited. We develop and exploit a new empirical source--survey testimony from political insiders--to measure three Weberian qualities of Chinese bureaucracy: meritocracy, autonomy, and morale. By translating questions from a major survey of U.S. officials, we place the responses of Chinese officials in comparative perspective. In contrast to claims that political connections dominate official promotions in China, Chinese bureaucrats are markedly more likely than U.S. bureaucrats to report that their agencies recruit people with the right skills and promote people based on performance. Responses from municipal governments in China resemble those of high-performing federal bureaucracies in the United States, such as NASA and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. However, the Chinese advantage shrinks in autonomy and nearly disappears in workplace morale.
Francis Fukuyama is the Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) and the Mosbacher Director of FSI's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL). He is also a professor by courtesy in the Department of Political Science. He was previously at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of Johns Hopkins University, where he was the Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy and director of SAIS' International Development program.