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 demonstrated 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 event is jointly sponsored by the Department of Government and the Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues at Georgetown University.