Institutionalizing Chinese Legislatures: Trade-Offs between Autonomy and Capacity

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Some leaders of Chinese local people's congresses emphasize autonomy in order to promote decentralization and enhance representation. Other legislative insiders favor sacrificing autonomy in order to strengthen capacity and improve over sight. Tight coupling between congresses appeals to local legislators because it offers opportunities to mobilize supporters, obtain resources, and expand jurisdiction, while representatives of higher congresses often oppose closer ties in order to preserve local initiative, safeguard elections, and reduce conflict with Party committees. In a reforming communist state, single legislatures may not be the right unit of analysis for assessing autonomy. Established boundaries, in the early stages of institutionalization, may apply to the legislative system as a whole rather than to its parts. And softening boundaries between congresses at different levels can harden boundaries against other bureaucracies.

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