Asia Pacific Education Review

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 399–412 | Cite as

College education and attitudes toward democracy in China: an empirical study

  • Gang WangEmail author
  • Liyun Wu
  • Rongbin Han


The modernization theory contends that there is a link between education and democracy. Yet few empirical studies have been done to investigate the role of higher education on promoting democratic values in the Chinese context. Using China General Social Survey 2006, this paper generates several findings which are not completely consistent with the existing theoretical explanations on political development. Specifically, the college-educated Chinese citizens not only agree that there is need to improve democracy, but support various types of political participation and resist the government-oriented petitioning. However, though entrepreneurial elites (private business owners) and political elites (Chinese communist party members) demonstrate preference to democracy in principle, empirical evidence suggests that they are much less likely to support political participation that challenges the authoritarian regime in China compared to knowledge-based elites (college-educated adults).


College education Economic development Democracy China general Social survey 



We thank professors Gérard Roland, Wen-hsin Yeh, and Peter Lorentzen for their very helpful comments.


The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


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Copyright information

© Education Research Institute, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.The Ethelyn R. Strong School of Social WorkNorfolk State UniversityNorfolkUSA
  3. 3.Department of International AffairsThe University of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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