Why Do Authoritarian Regimes Allow Citizens to Voice Opinions Publicly?

Journal of Politics, Forthcoming

61 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2013 Last revised: 5 Sep 2016

See all articles by Jidong Chen

Jidong Chen

Tsinghua University - School of Public Policy and Management

Yiqing Xu

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science

Date Written: September 1, 2016

Abstract

Why would an authoritarian regime allow citizens to voice opinions publicly if the exchange of information among citizens spurs social instability as has been often alleged? We show that an authoritarian regime can strengthen its rule by allowing citizens to communicate with each other publicly. From the government's perspective, such communication has two interrelated functions. First, if public communication reveals a shared feeling of dissatisfaction towards the government among citizens, the government will detect the danger and improve policies accordingly. Second, and perhaps more interestingly, public communication disorganizes citizens if they find themselves split over policies. We show that the government allows public communication if and only if it perceives sufficient preference heterogeneity among citizens. The model also illustrates that public communication could serve as a commitment device ensuring government responsiveness when it faces high dissatisfaction, which in turn makes the government better off than with private polling.

Keywords: Authoritarian Governance, Public Communication, Horizontal Communication, China

JEL Classification: D7, D8

Suggested Citation

Chen, Jidong and Xu, Yiqing, Why Do Authoritarian Regimes Allow Citizens to Voice Opinions Publicly? (September 1, 2016). Journal of Politics, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2318051 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2318051

Jidong Chen (Contact Author)

Tsinghua University - School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

Beijing, 100084
China

Yiqing Xu

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

HOME PAGE: http://yiqingxu.org

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
633
Abstract Views
3,751
rank
40,574
PlumX Metrics