This is excellent stuff. When Minxin Pei writes about how it is easy to amass wealth politically in a one party state an image of California instantly popped into my mind. Cali and China are in no way equivalent on the crony spectrum, but as the state increasingly becomes a Democrat only state (and this is only partially because of voter preferences) the observation Pei makes will only become more true.
Regardless we are pleased to see this exploration of China, a place which we have long referred to as the Ultimate Crony Capitalist State.
(From The National Interest)
The political power controlled by the officials in a one-party state can be converted into immense wealth quickly. However, this conversion is difficult to execute without colluding partners in the private sector. Most Chinese officials who have the ability to seize state-owned assets have also incurred considerable sunken costs—their lifelong investments in their political careers in the party. Abandoning a rewarding position inside the regime is unattractive. That is why family members of these officials, but not the officials themselves, are in the private sector…
…Therefore, the optimal solution for officials eager to cash in on their political power is to set up their immediate family members in business or to find partners in the private sector. This strategy allows these officials to remain inside the regime and at the same time amass wealth through the use of their power. For private businessmen, this partnership is also attractive because it can unlock the enormous value embedded in the state-owned assets under the control of these officials.
Now what’s going on with that multi-billion dollar monorail to nowhere in the Golden State?