Outspoken Insiders: Political Connections and Citizen Participation in Authoritarian China
Few political systems are completely closed to citizen participation, but in nondemocratic systems and developing democracies, such participation may come with risks. In these contexts where fear and uncertainty may be high, why do some citizens still take action and make complaints to authorities? The resource mobilization model identifies the importance of time, money, and civic skills as resources that are necessary for participation. In this paper, we build on this model and argue that political connections—close personal ties to someone working in government—can also constitute a critical resource, especially in contexts with weak democratic institutions. Using data from both urban and rural China, we find that individuals with political connections are more likely to contact authorities with complaints about government public services, despite the fact that they do not have higher levels of dissatisfaction with public service provision. We conduct various robustness checks, including a sensitivity analysis, and show that this relationship is unlikely to be driven by an incorrect model specification or unobserved confounding variables.
KeywordsAuthoritarianism Complaint making State-society relations Political connections Political participation Resource model
We are grateful for the comments provided by Jean C. Oi, Yuen Yuen Ang, Erik H. Wang, the participants of workshops at the Center for Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford University and the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association. We are also grateful to the anonymous referees and the editors of Political Behavior. Thanks to My Seppo and Blair Read for valuable editorial assistance. The authors bear sole responsibility for any errors. The China Public Governance Survey (CPGS) was conducted by Unirule Institute of Economics, a Beijing based think-tank, and HorizonKey, a survey company. The China Rural Governance Survey (CRGS) was conducted by the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy in the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The authors appreciate the assistance of these organizations in providing the data. The views expressed in this paper, however, are the authors’ own.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments of comparable ethical standards.
- Angrist, J. D., & Pischke, J.-S. (2009). Mostly harmless econometrics: An empiricist’s companion. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Banfield, E. (1967). Moral basis of a backward society. New York: Simon and Schuster Inc.Google Scholar
- Baviskar, A. (2010). Winning the right to information in India: Is knowledge power? In J. Gaventa & R. McGee (Eds.), Citizen action and national policy reform: Making change happen (Claiming citizenship: Rights, participation, and accountability) (pp. 130–152). London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
- Besley, T. J., Pande, R., & Rao, V. (2007). Just rewards? Local politics and public resource allocation in South India. London: London School of Economics.Google Scholar
- Blaydes, L. (2006) Who votes in authoritarian elections and why? Determinants of voter turnout in contemporary Egypt. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science.Google Scholar
- Bratton, M. (1994). Peasant-state relations in post-colonial Africa: Engagement or disengagement? In J. Migdal (Ed.), The state in society: Struggles and accommodation (pp. 231–254). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Carter, B. (2013). Evidence on budget accountability and participation. Governance and Social Development Resource Centre (GSDRC): Birmingham.Google Scholar
- Chandra, K. (Ed.). (2012). Constructivist theories of ethnic politics. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Chatterjee, P. (2004). The politics of the governed: Reflections on popular politics in most of the world. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
- Chen, X. (2012). Social protest and contentious authoritarian China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Chirot, D. (Ed.). (1991). The crisis of Leninism and the decline of the left: The revolutions of 1989. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press.Google Scholar
- Duara, P. (1991) Culture, Power, and the State: Rural North China, 1900–1942. Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
- Folscher, A. (2010). Budget transparency: New frontiers in transparency and accountability. Transparency and Accountability Initiative. Retrieved July 5, 2016 from http://www.transparency-initiative.org/reports/new-frontiers-in-transparency-and-accountability.
- Fuller, C. J., & Benei, V. (Eds.). (2000). The everyday state and society in modern India. New Delhi: Social Sciences Press.Google Scholar
- Givens, J. (2011). Advocates of change in authoritarian regimes: How Chinese lawyers and Chinese and Russian journalists stay out of trouble. Retrieved from SSRN: https://goo.gl/j05Y55.
- Gold, T., Guthrie, D., & Wank, D. (Eds.). (2002). Social connections in China: Institutions, culture, and the changing nature of Guanxi. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Hazlett, C. Angry or weary? The effect of physical violence on attitudes toward peace in Darfur. University of California, Los Angeles (In press).Google Scholar
- Hofmann, A. (2006). El servicio profesional de carrera y su marcha hacia el final del sexenio [The professional career service and its progress toward the end of the current presidency]. Servicio Profesional de Carrera, 3, 21–41.Google Scholar
- House, Freedom. (2015). Freedom in the world 2015. Washington, DC: Freedom House.Google Scholar
- Huntington, S. (1968). Political Order in changing societies. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
- Institute of Development Studies. (2010). An upside-down view of governance. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.Google Scholar
- Khagram, S., Fung, A., & de Renzio, P. (2013). Open budgets: The political economy of transparency, participation, and accountability. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
- Kitschelt, H., & Wilkinson, S. I. (Eds.). (2007). Patrons, clients, and policies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Lam, W. F. (1997). Institutional design of public agencies and coproduction: A study of irrigation associations in Taiwan. In P. Evans (Ed.), State-society synergy: Government and social capital in development (pp. 11–47). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Ledeneva, A. V. (1998). Russia’s economy of favours: Blat, networking and informal exchange. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- McGee, R., & Gaventa, J. (2010). Synthesis report: Review of impact and effectiveness of transparency and accountability initiatives. Brighton: Institute of Development Studies.Google Scholar
- Milgram, S. (1967). The small-world problem. Psychology Today, 1, 62–67.Google Scholar
- Nathan, A. J. (2003). Authoritarian resilience. Journal of Politics, 14, 6–17.Google Scholar
- Rosenstone, S., & Hansen, J. M. (1993). Mobilization, participation, and democracy in America. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.Google Scholar
- Sethuraman, S.V. (1998). Gender, informality and poverty: A global review of gender bias in female informal employment and incomes in developing countries. WIEGO Report, January 1998.Google Scholar
- Shi, T. (1997). Political participation in Beijing. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Singerman, D. (1995). Avenues of participation: Family, politics, and networks in urban quarters of Cairo. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Verba, S., Nie, N. H., & Kim, J. O. (1978). Participation and political equality: A seven-nation comparison. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Verba, S., Schlozman, K., & Brady, H. (1995). Voice and equality: Civic voluntarism in American politics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Wolfinger, R. E., & Rosenstone, S. J. (1980). Who votes?. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar