Institutional Change in Authoritarian Regimes: Pension Reform in Russia and China
Historical institutionalism has demonstrated the value of close analysis of policymaking to explain institutional change. In particular, scholars have distinguished four different patterns of institutional change: drift, conversion, layering, and displacement. To date, most of this literature has been based on studies of developed democracies. This paper uses a case comparison of pension reform in the two postcommunist giants, Russia and China, to analyze the analogous processes of agenda-setting, bargaining, choice, and policy implementation in bureaucratic-authoritarian regimes. While policymaking in both countries takes place almost entirely within the state bureaucracy, in China, state political authority is much more decentralized than in Russia. I argue that this difference helps to account for the characteristic difference in the patterns of policy change that we observe in the two cases: periodic abrupt reversals in Russia vs. incrementalism and layering in China.