Constituency Service Under Nondemocratic Rule: Evidence from China
62 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2014 Last revised: 13 Oct 2016
Date Written: 2016
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
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