The Business of Lobbying in China

Article excerpt

The Business of Lobbying in China, by Scott Kennedy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005. xx + 257 pp. US$49.95 (hardcover).

Despite the recent proliferation of business firms in China and their evident economic power, surprisingly little is known about business involvement in national-level politics and policymaking. In this well-written book, Scott Kennedy sheds new light on this, examining the nature of business-government interactions at the national level in three economic sectors (steel, consumer electronics and software). He finds that business firms have in general become heavily involved in efforts to influence government policy, but Kennedy's primary focus is on describing the three different patterns of businessgovernment interactions that he finds in the steel, electronics and software industries and on explaining why such variation occurs between industries.

Looking at the general political science literature, Kennedy finds five alternative patterns for business-government relations-pluralism, societal corporatism, state corporatism, clientelism and monism-with a very useful table offering a systematic comparison of these five patterns. Then, throughout the rest of the book, Kennedy assesses how accurately each of the patterns describes what we see in China, both in general and in the three specific industries. Reviewing the evidence, Kennedy finds that none of the five models provides an accurate description of the overall situation in China. In particular, he argues quite convincingly against the popular notion that China's associational system is corporatist. The sectoral studies in later chapters confirm this finding while also developing another key argument introduced early on: that clientelism is not widespread in business-government relations at the national level. The argument is not that guanxi is unimportant, but that lobbying at the national level does not involve centrally the mobilization of patron-client relations.

Interestingly, the pluralist pattern emerges as the most useful model. This is not to say that China should be seen as having a pluralist pattern of businessgovernment relations-indeed, Kennedy states that "from a macro perspective China does not fully fit a pluralist framework" (p. 53). Yet as the book progresses, it becomes clear that the pluralist model is functioning as a sort of yardstick by which to assess the situation in China. Indeed, in the concluding chapter, Kennedy discards the five patterns and instead introduces four dimensions on which government-business interactions vary across different economic sectors. Although he does not explicitly tie these dimensions to pluralism, it is clear that the four dimensions lead naturally to the construction of a continuum of business-government relations which has a fully developed pluralist system at one end. This is sure to raise eyebrows among China specialists, yet Kennedy's in-depth, inductive research shows that this is a sensible and fruitful way of assessing the nature of Chinese business-government relations. …