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Working Paper

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Chinese law, legislation, legislative processes, legislative institutions, rulemaking, supply of law


How often does law get made in China, and what kinds of law? We construct a dataset on subnational lawmaking to address these questions. The dataset builds on a basic insight: Chinese politicians choose among three types of instruments to implement policy—statutes, regulations, and informal policy directives (IPDs). IPDs are easier to promulgate than statutes and regulations, and the fact that they lack the force of law rarely impedes enforcement. Why then do politicians make law at all? Several findings shed light on this puzzle. First, the choice between formal lawmaking and IPDs depends on the policy subject. Second, provinces and cities have distinct policy specializations. Specialization may lead one level of government to invest in lawmaking in the subject, or lead the other level of government to refrain from doing so. Third, politician tenure has little impact on lawmaking. Fourth, while population is a relevant predictor of lawmaking, other factors that might seem to represent the “demand for law” bear unexpected correlations with the quantity of law.

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