Cover: The Autocrat's Predicament

The Autocrat's Predicament

The Political Peril of Economic Upgrade in Single-Party Authoritarian Regimes

Published in: Lexington Books (2023)

Posted on rand.org Feb 1, 2024

by Timothy R. Heath

In their quest for national revival, China's leaders under Xi Jinping have sought to improve the economy's performance. The disappointing economic record of authoritarian regimes provides ample grounds for doubt, yet not all have failed. Why have some succeeded where most did not? The theory of the "enabling condition" highlights the central role that politics plays in the pursuit of economic advancement. The theory explains that a political situation characterized by a strong central leadership, weak elite opposition, and a united public offers favorable prospects for enacting concentrated growth policies. This arrangement enables the central leadership to enlist the public in convincing elites to implement policies that they might otherwise resist. Focusing on the experience of single party, authoritarian regimes, The Autocrat's Predicament: The Political Peril of Economic Upgrade in Single Party, Authoritarian Regimes examines episodes in the histories of the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, and the Soviet Union. It concludes that China's unfavorable political situation could be potentially unfriendly for its ambitions to build an efficient, highly productive economy.

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