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February 3, 2023

Localized Bargaining: The Political Economy of China’s High-Speed Railway Program

Event Series: Chinese Politics and Economy Research Seminar Series

high-speed train

China's high-speed railway network is one of the largest infrastructure programs in human history. Despite global media coverage, little is known about the political process that led the government to invest in the railway program and the reasons for the striking regional and temporal variation in such investments. In Localized Bargaining: The Political Economy of China’s High-Speed Railway Program (2022), Xiao Ma offers a novel theory of intergovernmental bargaining that explains the unfolding of China's unprecedented high-speed railway program. Drawing on a wealth of in-depth interviews, original data sets, and surveys with local officials, Ma’s book details how the bottom-up bargaining efforts by territorial authorities—whom the central bureaucracies rely on to implement various infrastructure projects—shaped the allocation of investment in the railway system. In this book talk, Ma will demonstrate how localities of different types invoke institutional and extra-institutional sources of bargaining power in their competition for railway stations and shed new light on how the nation's massive bureaucracy actually functions.

This book talk is jointly sponsored by the Department of Sociology, Department of Government, and the Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues at Georgetown University.


Xiao Ma is an assistant professor of political science at Peking University. He teaches and conducts research on comparative political institutions, political economy of development, and Chinese politics. In particular, Ma's research examines how institutions and incentives shape elite behaviors and policymaking in developing states like China. His research has been published or is forthcoming in numerous political science and area studies journals, including Studies in Comparative International Development, Security Studies, Political Communication, Journal of Contemporary China, and the China Quarterly.