…the size of the Chinese government and party bureaucracy is surprisingly modest…In this respect, the Chinese communist Party is similar to previous Chinese dynasties as far back as the Han, which ruled the vast Chinese empire with a modestly sized civil service.
…China has only 31 government and party employees per thousand residents. The number of civil servants per thousand residents in France is 95, in the United States, 75, and in Germany 53.
You will note that these numbers exclude state-owned enterprises, which in China are extensive although shrinking in relative terms.
That is from the new and excellent Nicholas Lardy book Markets Over Mao: The Rise of Private Business in China. In my view the truth lies somewhere between the arguments of Lardy and the thesis of Joe Zhang, see the first Amazon review for Zhang’s critique of Lardy, plus Zhang’s comments here. Here is Scott Sumner criticizing Zhang.