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Regularized Campaigns as a New Institution for Effective Governance

October 23, 2023
Shiran Victoria Shen, Qi Wang, et al.

Working Paper

In this working paper, Shiran Victoria ShenQi Wang, and Bing Zhang show how campaigns can improve firm behavior when bureaucratic capture undermines the promise of institutions.


The legislator primarily uses institutions and implements campaigns to achieve effective governance. Institutions foster regularized implementation, while campaigns, which are organized courses of action with some level of coercion to achieve specific goals, happen ad hoc and achieve quick but transient results. This paper fills theoretical gaps in the social sciences by systematically exploring how campaigns can enhance institutions and how regularized campaigns as a new institution create persistent effects beyond the periods when campaigns are actively ongoing. We theorize that institutions can become ineffective when special interests capture the bureaucracy, in which case campaigns are needed to weaken the regulated entities’ bargaining power. Using an original firm-level dataset, Shiran Victoria Shen, Qi Wang, and Bing Zhang test their theory on industrial firm responses to changes in air pollution regulation in China and find that the higher-contributing the firms, the more standard violations they committed before the central government started waging waves of campaigns but not after. This suggests that when bureaucratic capture undermines the promise of institutions, campaigns can improve compliance, and their effects can persist when regularized.

This working paper was presented at the IGCC-sponsored Political Economy of Climate and the Environment (PECE) mini-conference, held at the UCLA Luskin Center on August 30, 2023.

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