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Publicity-Driven Accountability in China: Qualitative and Experimental Evidence

25 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2012 Last revised: 22 Oct 2012

Greg Distelhorst

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Date Written: September 27, 2012

Abstract

This paper argues that publicity can discipline officials in the absence of electoral incentives. It presents a qualitative picture of publicity-driven accountability in contemporary China, highlighting the roles of official incentives, media change, and citizen initiative. A key hypothesis from this mechanism is then tested through an original survey experiment on Chinese bureaucrats. By manipulating the identities of hypothetical complainants, it finds that officials perceive journalists to be more threatening to their careers. The mechanism linking publicity and official discipline suggests that the bureaucratic control associated with effective authoritarian rule, when combined with a partially-liberalized media system, also enhances accountability to the public.

Suggested Citation

Distelhorst, Greg, Publicity-Driven Accountability in China: Qualitative and Experimental Evidence (September 27, 2012). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper Working Paper 2012-24. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2153057 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2153057

Greg Distelhorst (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

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