Incompetence, Noise, and Fear in Central-Local Relations in China

  • Andrew Wedeman


In this article, I analyze how the structure of the Chinese state affects the probability that local cadres will comply with the directives of the center. Because the Chinese state consists of a five-level hierarchy of dyadic principal-agent relationships, the existence of even moderate levels of routine incompetence and noise ensures that compliance will be less than perfect due to simple error. Moreover, because the center cannot perfectly differentiate between simple incompetence and willful disobedience, the structure of the state enables cadres to engage in strategic disobedience. I thus conclude that the complexity of the linkages between center and locality are a major factor in the observed persistence of corruption and institutional malfeasance.


Comparative International Development Random Chance Normal Hierarchy Chinese State Harsh Punishment 
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© Springer 2001

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  • Andrew Wedeman

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