“Credit for Compliance: How Institutional Proliferation Establishes Control in China” by Haemin Jee
October 20, 2021 @ 9:00 am – 10:00 am JST
Author: Haemin Jee (Stanford).
Abstract: Autocrats want to secure compliance with laws, regulate market players, and deter rule-violating behavior. However, they remain wary of strengthening judicial institutions that are necessary to achieve these goals but could place constraints on regime power in the future. How do autocrats resolve this control dilemma? I argue that the answer lies in institutional proliferation, the creation of new information-gathering and punitive institutions. Implications of this theory are tested through an empirical examination of the social credit system in China. I propose that the social credit system works to buttress existing legal and regulatory institutions. Using original data on local implementation of the social credit system, I show that its major targets are firms, not individuals, and that reasons for punishment under the social credit system are closely tied to existing laws and regulations. These results are at odds with previous descriptions of the social credit system as primarily a surveillance tool, and illustrates how it fills the functional gaps of the existing legal apparatus. The paper then demonstrates the effects of the social credit system on law implementation. Taking advantage of the phased-in local enactment of the social credit system and newly collected panel data, I use a difference-in-differences design to demonstrate that the social credit system improves the enforcement of laws.