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“Mao’s last revolution”: a dictator’s loyalty–competence tradeoff

Ying Bai () and Titi Zhou ()
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Ying Bai: The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Titi Zhou: The Education University of Hong Kong

Public Choice, 2019, vol. 180, issue 3, 469-500

Abstract: Abstract Although competent (vs mediocre) subordinates, while better contributors to dictator success, are also more prone to treason, it remains unclear empirically how (and even whether) dictators address this loyalty–competence tradeoff. To throw light on this issue, we use a biographical dataset of Chinese Communist Party Central Committee (CC) members from 1945 to 1982 to investigate the tradeoff faced by Mao Zedong in selecting his senior officials. Our results suggest that during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), the foundation and consolidation of the new regime lowered the payoff from subordinate competence, leading to the purging of competent CC members and their replacement by mediocre substitutes. Additional analyses of the competing mechanisms proposed by different theoretical models indicate further that capable young subordinates are more likely to be purged, possibly because they have more outside options (e.g., future hiring by the dictator’s successor) and, hence, expend less effort on loyalty.

Keywords: Loyalty–competence tradeoff; Political selection; Cultural Revolution; China (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D73 P26 C72 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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