Political Science

Kristine Li

Postdoctoral Fellow, Public Policy at The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard University
Subfield Comparative Politics
Dissertation Deliberation and Market Development: the Rise of Competing Subnational Political Economies in China during the Socialist Planned Era (1949-1978)
Committee Edward Steinfeld, Mark Blyth, Prerna Singh, Patrick Heller


Job Market Title

Deliberation and Market Development: the Rise of Competing Subnational Political Economies During the Socialist Era of China (1949-1978)


Under what conditions do societies experience modern market development characterized by increased integration, competition, and greater varieties of goods and services supported by dense and inclusive market institutions? More specifically, how and why did grassroots-level market development persist in one of the least favorable environments, namely China's high tide of socialism? This dissertation tackles this empirical puzzle using process tracing analysis in the tradition of comparative historical analysis. Existing theories often attribute successful market transition to the revitalization of deep-seated pre-Communist commercial norms and networks or, alternatively, to recent central reforms of economic liberalization and political decentralization. 

This dissertation proposes an argument distinct from the existing literature through careful process tracing and drawing on more than 10000 pieces of county-level archival documents (1949 to early 1980s), field interviews, and local gazettes from two carefully selected Chinese provinces. It argues that localities, where states operate with deliberative governance that focuses on solving governance problems through an iterative process of decision making or feedback loops, tend to preserve market institutions and foster market development even under a centrally planned economy. I argue that both Maoist governance techniques and historical political development prior to the Communist Revolution contribute to a region’s willingness and capacity to practice deliberative governance.  This dissertation enhances our understanding of how local deliberative and adaptative institutions enhance authoritarian resilience. It also contributes to the literature on late development and the relationship between political and economic development in general.