Do Village Elections in China Select Better Qualified Leaders? - Meritocratic Selection in China’s Grassroots Democracy

Mi Luo (Peking University)

Abstract: Do village elections in rural China with open nominations select better qualified leaders as compared to the previous appointment system? Using a unique sample of elections between 1982 and 2006 in 246 villages from 29 provinces, this paper analyzes the effect of elections on the years of schooling and pre-election managerial background of elected leaders, under both two-way fixed effects and ordered probit specifications. Using elections with open nominations has a significantly positive effect on both measures of leaders’ qualifications. Compared to appointed leaders, elected leaders have about one year more of education and a doubled probability of having previous management experience. Endogeneity issues are addressed with a quasi-natural experiment of an election law enacted in 1998. Future research will examine the correlation between leaders’ qualifications and subsequent village performance in this context.