Rising Rights Consciousness: Undermining or Undergirding China’s Stability?

20 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2010 Last revised: 21 May 2012

Date Written: September 1, 2011


Claims that China’s people exhibit a rising “rights consciousness” have proliferated in recent years, often accompanied by the assertion that this trend has the potential to lead to significant political change. Despite or perhaps because of the term’s wide use, rights consciousness suffers from a severe lack of conceptual clarity. To address this, we develop a choice-theoretic framework to examine what might be driving growth in rights conscious behavior, identifying three possibilities: changing values, changing government policy, and changing social equilibrium. While the most common conception of rights consciousness is as a value change, we find more evidence for the primacy of policy change, implying that the spread of rights consciousness is more stabilizing than destabilizing for the state. We also suggest that monitoring changes in social equilibrium is just as important as monitoring changing values when looking for signs of dramatic change in the political system.

Keywords: China, Rights, Rights-Consciousness, Authoritarianism, Game Theory

JEL Classification: D72, J50, P30

Suggested Citation

Lorentzen, Peter L. and Scoggins, Suzanne E., Rising Rights Consciousness: Undermining or Undergirding China’s Stability? (September 1, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1722352 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1722352

Peter L. Lorentzen (Contact Author)

University of San Francisco ( email )

2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117-1080
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.peterlorentzen.com

Suzanne E. Scoggins

Clark University ( email )

950 Main St
Worcester, MA 01610
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/suzanneescoggins/

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