The Battle of Ideas and Discourses Before Democratic Transition: Different Democratic Conceptions in Authoritarian China
International Political Science Review, Forthcoming
40 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2014
Date Written: July 12, 2013
The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, we propose a theoretical framework to examine popular democratic conceptions in societies with limited experiences of democratic politics. Second, following this framework, we use new survey instruments to investigate the origins and consequences of popular democratic conceptions in mainland China, with particular emphasis on how the Chinese government indoctrinates its people with a guardianship discourse on democracy to disguise its authoritarian nature. Using national survey data, this paper demonstrates that the Chinese government has effectively taken advantage of its regulated education and media systems, as well as its lingering Confucian and Leninist traditions, to promote and indoctrinate its people with the guardianship discourse. A majority of Chinese citizens indeed understand democracy following this particular discourse and, thus, perceive the Chinese government as more or less a democracy.
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