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This article is available from SSRN.

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Governance indicators; Quality of government; China; Bureaucracy; Authoritarian politics


How should the quality of government be measured across disparate national contexts? This study develops a new approach using an original survey of Chinese civil servants and a comparison to the United States. We surveyed over 2,500 Chinese officials on two organizational features of their bureaucracies: meritocracy and individual autonomy. They report greater meritocracy than U.S. federal employees in almost all American agencies. China's edge is smaller in autonomy. Differences between the U.S. and China diminish, but do not disappear, after adjusting for respondent demographics. The meritocracy gap is also robust to excluding the Chinese respondents most likely to be affected by social desirability biases. Our findings contrast with numerous indices of good government that rank the U.S. far above China. They highlight an opportunity to improve quality of government indices by incorporating surveys of political insiders.

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