Do Political Connections Buffer Firms from or Bind Firms to the Government? A Study of Corporate Charitable Donations of Chinese Firms
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Zhang, Jianjun; Marquis, Christopher; Kunyuan, Qiao
Do political connections buffer firms from or bind firms to the government? To examine this theoretical puzzle, we distinguish two types of managerial political connections, ascribed and achieved, and theorize that these different types of ties either buffer firms from or bind firms to government demands. Furthermore, we propose that these effects are contingent on both industrial and regional institutional conditions. We test our framework with a unique panel data set of privately controlled listed firms’ charitable donations in China from 2001 to 2012. We find that firms whose executives have ascribed bureaucratic connections are more likely to use their connections as a buffer from governmental donation pressure, particularly in competitive industries and less market-oriented regions, whereas in state-monopolized industries this buffering effect is reduced. In contrast, achieved political connections are more likely to serve a binding function that facilitates donation, particularly in state-monopolized industries and more market-oriented regions, but in less market oriented regions, they buffer firms from the pressure to donate. Our research contributes to the literatures on the effects of political connections, the institutional contingencies of political connections, and the relationship between corporate social responsibility (CSR) and corporate political activities (CPA).