We Asked You: Public Opinion and Consultation in China
59 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2017
Date Written: August 27, 2016
China’s leaders describe their system of rule as “consultative democracy”, whereby the public, forbidden from organizing on matters of politics, is encouraged to participate on issues of policy. In particular, citizens are routinely solicited for input on upcoming policy debates. But are public inputs incorporated into policy outputs or is it all ‘window-dressing’? In pursuit of an answer, we employ an online survey designed to measure public preferences on a range of policies recently debated by China’s National People’s Congress (NPC). Next, we compare final policy decisions, based on whether or not they were opened for public consultation, for evidence of convergence between public opinion and policy choices. Our findings suggest that consultation is associated with more popular policy choices. To check for robustness, we pair our measures of policy preference with latent measures of ideology from our survey, and outside surveys, to extrapolate a predicted ’public opinion’ for the broader Chinese constituency. While we cannot discount the possibility that topics were selectively opened to public input, closer examination of public opinion distributions does not support this interpretation.
Keywords: China, Participation, Public Opinion, Policymaking, Consultation, Autocracy, Ideology
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