Informal Elite Competition and Power-Sharing under Authoritarianism


While a growing literature argues that power-sharing institutions play a critical role in maintaining authoritarian regime stability, scholars also find that political struggles among non-institutionalized, informal factions shape authoritarian politics. This paper examines whether competition among factions can induce stable power-sharing outcomes as power-sharing institutions are intended to do. By analyzing the behaviors of Chinese bureaucrats directly connected to top national leaders, we show that powerful factions pursue power dominance, rather than sharing power among existing ruling groups. Using news reports in Chinese local newspapers on corruption investigations from 2000 to 2014, we find that political elites connected to powerful patrons are more likely to promote negative news about the members of weaker factions. These negative reports indeed harm the promotion prospects of reported-on province leaders, weakening the already weak factions. Our findings thus suggest that informal competition does not substitute for institutional power-sharing mechanisms.

Working Paper.