Do land revenue windfalls create a political resource curse? Evidence from China

Ting Chen, J.K. S. Kung*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

143 Citations (Scopus)


By analyzing a panel on the political turnovers of 4390 county leaders in China during 1999–2008, we find that the revenue windfalls accrued to these officials from land sales have undermined the effectiveness of the promotion system for government officials. Instead of rewarding efforts made to boost GDP growth, promotion is positively correlated with signaling efforts, and with corruption. The robust positive relationship between land revenue windfalls and political turnover, or specifically promotion, suggests that those who are politically connected to their superiors and those beyond the prime age for promotion are the primary beneficiaries. The case for corruption is substantiated by the evidence inferred from anti-corruption crackdowns, which reveals that the additional effect of land revenue on political turnover and size of bureaucracy (a proxy for corruption) decreases significantly in crackdowns but that land revenue has no effect on city construction expenditure (a proxy for signaling).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86-106
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Development Economics
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Development
  • Economics and Econometrics

User-Defined Keywords

  • China
  • Corruption
  • Land revenue windfalls
  • Political resource curse
  • Promotion
  • Signaling


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