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7 - Authoritarian and Democratic Pathways to Meritocracy in China

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 March 2020

Melissa S. Williams
Affiliation:
University of Toronto
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Summary

In classical approaches to regime taxonomy, classifying a particular order within a typology of regimes turns on identifying the particular mix of its most important institutions and their associated purposes. Baogang He and Mark Warren’s past work has unsettled this familiar approach through a combination of innovative theorizing and empirical research. In this chapter, they extend their approach to recent arguments that Confucian ideals of meritocracy have been a significant factor driving China’s astonishing economic growth in recent decades. Beyond contesting the claim that China’s current regime is meritocratic, they reject altogether the view that “political meritocracy” is a regime type that can be coherently contrasted with “democracy.” Distinctions between regime types turn on how power is conferred on officeholders, whereas “meritocracy” refers to the qualities that officeholders possess. “Meritocracy” should be understood as an adjectival modifier of the two core regime types, authoritarianism and democracy. He and Warren draw on empirical research to argue that the current Chinese regime is a hybrid form, “authoritarian meritocracy with democratic characteristics,” that has emerged through innovative combinations of institutional forms. In practice, Chinese innovations sacrificed both democratic and meritocratic features of these institutions to the temptations of authoritarian rule.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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