Internal Government Assessments of the Quality of Governance in China

  • Martin K. DimitrovEmail author


Internal assessments of the quality of governance allow authoritarian regimes to identify and address public discontent before it threatens regime stability. This article provides a theory of how the information necessary to produce such assessments is collected, processed, and utilized to guide policy. The empirical focus of the article is on China, which is used to illustrate how information-gathering channels in communist autocracies differ from those used in electoral autocracies. The theoretical argument of the article is that petitions rather than elections function as the main channel for gathering information on popular perceptions about governance problems in communist autocracies. Information compiled through the analysis of petitions is valued because it allows the leadership to identify problems with policy implementation; to track corruption; and to monitor the level of popular trust in the regime. Although protests provide similar information, they can threaten stability. Therefore, the advantage of petitions from the perspective of the regime is that they allow for routine information transfer without compromising stability maintenance. This study is based primarily on previously unavailable archival sources and on a systematic analysis of internal-circulation (neibu) materials, which provide insight into internal government understandings of governance problems in China.


Information gathering Petitions Protests Quality of governance Policy implementation Corruption Trust Communist autocracies China 



The author would like to thank Francis Fukuyama, the participants in the workshop “Assessing the Quality of Governance in China” (held in Sonoma on November 12–13, 2012), and the two anonymous reviewers for SCID for very helpful feedback.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceTulane UniversityNew OrleansUSA

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