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Minxin Pei: Political jockeying hinders real economic reform in China

Rulers in autocratic regimes are commonly seen as enjoying greater freedom of action in policymaking than leaders in democracies, because they are not hampered by electoral cycles. For those wedded to this alleged superiority of dictatorships, it is natural to conclude that autocratic regimes are more capable of implementing painful economic reforms as a result of their lack of accountability to voters.

However intuitively appealing this proposition is, the reality is different. While it is true that autocrats do not have to worry about winning elections, they have much less freedom of action than is often assumed. Indeed, they are just as constrained by the influence of interest groups and the dictates of their political calendar.

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