Daniel Berkowitz, PhD, University of Pittsburgh
This event is part of the Economics Seminar Series series.
Location:Gerri C. LeBow Hall
3220 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
“What Makes Local Governments in Autocracies Accountable?
Evidence from China“
Daniel Berkowitz, University of Pittsburgh
Yi Lu, Tsinghua University
Mingqin Wu, South China Normal University
Abstract Authoritarian governments currently use the internet and social media to monitor their lower-level government. Does “digital authoritarianism” make local governments more accountable to their constituents? Or does it breed rent seeking? Thus, we exploit a policy experiment where the Chinese central government required a subset of their county governments to improve the communication links and data on their public websites. Adjusting for non-random assignment of pilot counties, selection on county leaders and a concurrent reform, we find that corruption fell and service provision increased in treated versus control counties post-treatment. We argue that a plausible mechanism is the website reform strengthened the promotion incentives of the county government leaders (see Xiong, 2020, “the Mandarin Model of Growth”). Consistent with this view, in treated versus control counties, county leaders were promoted more rapidly and, county citizens were energized because they used social media platforms to search for information and post texts about the reform.