What explains why vote buying occurs in some elections but not others? The existing literature commonly analyzes vote buying as a strategy of political parties to mobilize electoral support. Vote buying is less well understood in non-democracies and, in particular, in cases like Egypt and China where political parties do not directly structure electoral competition. We argue that successful vote buying provides a means of accessing valuable rents once in office and test this hypothesis in an original dataset of 1240 households in 62 villages in five provinces of China. We find that the availability of non-competitive rents explains the variation over time and space in the phenomenon of vote buying in village elections. Moreover, vote buying does not necessarily advance the fortunes of those already closest to the single-party regime, like village party secretaries. Nevertheless, vote buying reveals information about economically influential local elites who seek to develop closer ties to the party-state.
(This is a joint work with Susan Whiting and Tan Zhao)
Xiao Ma (Ph.D. University of Washington 2017) is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Peking University, and a faculty associate at Peking University Research Center for Contemporary China (RCCC). His primary research and teaching interests lie in comparative political institutions, political economy of development, and Chinese politics. He focuses particularly on the questions of power-sharing among authoritarian elites both with and without the constraints of formal political institutions and how elite interactions, in turn, shape policy outcomes. His work have been published or are forthcoming in Political Communication, Journal of East Asian Studies, and Security Studies among others.