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Sense of Community, Neighboring, and Social Capital as Predictors of Local Political Participation in China

Abstract

This study examines the state of sense of community, neighboring behavior, and social capital in the People’s Republic of China, and explores their ability to predict local political participation, in the form of voting in elections for Urban Resident/Rural Villager Committees. Using a nationally representative survey, rural, older and married residents and those with a primary or high school education and higher perceived socio-economic status are more likely to participate. In rural areas, men are more likely than women to vote. For urban residents, knowing one’s neighbors is more important whereas in rural areas, neighboring behavior is more important, but both predict voting. Social capital does not generally predict Chinese people’s local political participation. Western definitions of social capital derived from theories about networking, bonding and bridging ties may be too culturally individualistic for China, whose collectivist society and agrarian kinship networks predate Communism. Simply knowing and helping one’s neighbors, rather than more abstract notions of trust, reciprocity or membership, may lead to the development of local democracy.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Sometimes called Urban Neighborhood Committee and Rural Village Committee; we will use these interchangeably.

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Correspondence to Qingwen Xu.

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Xu, Q., Perkins, D.D. & Chow, J.CC. Sense of Community, Neighboring, and Social Capital as Predictors of Local Political Participation in China. Am J Community Psychol 45, 259–271 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10464-010-9312-2

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Keywords

  • China
  • Citizen participation
  • Sense of community
  • Neighboring
  • Social capital
  • Community cognition
  • Chinese general social survey