The Department of Government
The Department of Government

Comparative Speaker Series- Greg Distelhorst (Univ of Toronto)

The Political Beliefs of Chinese Officials

Fri, September 27, 2019 | BAT 5.108

12:00 PM - 2:00 PM


Abstract: Are the political opinions of authoritarian officials organized into coherent systems of belief? What predicts the beliefs of authoritarian officials, and to what extent do they diverge from the beliefs of citizens? This study presents an original survey of over two thousand local government officials in China, examining their stated beliefs about the economy and the law. The median respondent expressed support for "law-abiding interventionism"—in which the state is deeply involved in markets and officials are constrained by laws. Principal component analyses show that disagreements between officials are organized into coherent, independently varying ideologies surrounding state intervention in the economy and the rule of law.  Age is the strongest predictor of officials’ political beliefs; younger officials favor markets and express stronger attachment to law. Compared to a survey of Chinese internet users, officials favored the same or greater state intervention in the economy with one noteworthy exception: their opposition to real estate price controls.

Bio: I am Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto, appointed at the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources and the Rotman School of Management.  I am also an investigator with The Governance Project at Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law.

My research focuses on global trade and worker rights, as well as politics and policy in contemporary China.  It appears in peer-reviewed social science journals including the American Journal of Political ScienceManagement Science, Industrial and Labor Relations Review, The Journal of PoliticsPerspectives on Politics, Comparative Political Studies, and the Quarterly Journal of Political Science.  

I was previously a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.  I also lived in mainland China for five years, including fellowships through the U.S. Fulbright Program and the Yale-China Association.  I received a BA in Cognitive Science from Yale University and a PhD in Political Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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