In This Review

Information for Autocrats: Representation in Chinese Local Congresses
Information for Autocrats: Representation in Chinese Local Congresses
By Melanie Manion
Cambridge University Press, 2016, 201 pp

Why do some authoritarian systems invest time and effort in maintaining fake representative institutions, such as China’s people’s congresses? These decorative “flower pots,” as many Chinese call them, rarely if ever exercise their legal powers to interrogate budg-ets or fire officials. Their delegates are elected every five years at five levels of the political system, from the township up to the national level. Manion suggests that the real purpose of the congresses is to enable delegates to lobby for local projects such as roads, bridges, schools, and clinics. In doing so, the delegates provide information that government officials need in order to secure favorable performance reviews and earn promotions. Manion’s interviews and surveys provide new details on how these important but poorly understood institutions function at the local level to support, rather than challenge, authoritarian rule.