2006-4-7
Interest Group Politics in China

 The latest buzz on Chinese politics is "interest group", even "powerful interst group". The press and some politicians are using these words more frequently.

 The existence of powerful interest groups in China is finally acknowledged, meaning conflicting interests are not fully co-opted by "democratic centralism" as claimed by a corporatist state.

 So far the term is derogative, something that the state should guard itself against, as if the state is still prestine and neutral.

 Academic interest group theory however thinks all political and government process, on the national as well as local levels, are the result of pressure from interest group(s) or interaction among interest groups. That means that wealth transfer and distribution of public goods are to a large extent determined by the strength of various interest groups. The weak and the unorganized will get the shorter end of the stick.

 The personality of political decision-makers may not count as much; ideology may not be a good indicator of the political process; left and right labels are losing their explanation power.

 China watchers have long used a quasi-interest group theory to analysis Chinese power politics -- the factions, the departments, the princeling party, and even the field marshal scion networks. They may not be far off the mark. 

 Now these entrenched earlier interest groups have evolved and multiplied and adapted to the state-led market economy, and the target is power AND wealth.

 According to academic interest group theory, in some parts of the world the imbalance of wealth transfers can be re-balanced through power shift by election. What is the balancing mechanism here?