Constituency Service Under Nondemocratic Rule: Evidence from China

62 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2014 Last revised: 13 Oct 2016

Greg Distelhorst

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

Yue Hou

Department of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

Date Written: 2016

Abstract

Why do nondemocratic regimes provide constituency service? This study develops theory based on a national field audit of China's "Mayor's Mailbox," an institution that allows citizens to contact local political officials. Analyzing government responses to over twelve hundred realistic appeals from putative citizens, we find local service institutions in China are comparably responsive to similar institutions in democracies. Two key predictors of institutional quality are economic modernization and the intensity of local social conflict. We explain these findings by proposing a demand-driven theory of nondemocratic constituency service; in order to sustain the informational benefits of citizen participation, service institutions must increase responsiveness to citizen demand. We then offer supplementary evidence for this theory by analyzing the content of real letters from citizens to local officials in China.

Keywords: authoritarian regimes, institutions, constituency service, responsiveness, China

Suggested Citation

Distelhorst, Greg and Hou, Yue, Constituency Service Under Nondemocratic Rule: Evidence from China (2016). APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper; Journal of Politics, Forthcoming; MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2014-12; Rotman School of Management Working Paper No. 2453574; APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2453574

Greg Distelhorst (Contact Author)

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

77 Massachusetts Ave.
E62-416
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

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

Yue Hou

Department of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Stiteler Hall
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

HOME PAGE: http://web.mit.edu/polisci/people/gradstudents/yue-hou.html

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