Science of Politics

Analysis of the John Hempton argument that “China is a kleptocracy.”

The individuals that make up the regime in China steal, but they also think about maintaining control of the country over the long-term. The people under their rule overwhelmingly remain poor but are still better off in economic terms than they were 30 years ago. The big game is not theft of deposits to go to the children of Politburo Standing Committee members trust funds; it is to produce sustained economic growth that allows the Party to stay in power. To use Mancur Olson’s phrase, the Party is a stationary bandit, not a roving one. A roving bandit takes everything and moves on. The Party acts as a stationary bandit, to maximize its take over time it is interested in increasing the size of the pie so that there is more to steal in the future. The…

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