What are the Duties of the Chinese Sovereign? Public Attitudes About China’s Economic Performance Beyond Growth
European Political Science Association Annual Conference (Milan, Italy), June 22-24, 2017
27 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2017 Last revised: 2 Dec 2018
Date Written: 2017
Autocrats typically seek public support on the basis of economic growth promotion and redistribution policies, and China is no exception. Yet, as undeniably important as these factors are in authoritarian legitimation strategies, we argue that this “performance legitimacy” benchmark is a broader and more complex phenomenon than has previously been acknowledged. Beyond improvements in material wellbeing, citizens form judgments about the state’s effectiveness in carrying out a variety of economic roles beyond growth, and they scrutinize the fairness of these market interventions. In this study, we use original survey data collected in late 2015 and early 2016 to evaluate Chinese citizens’ perceptions of two economic roles of the state that have been hotly debated in recent years: state ownership and market regulation. We find that while citizens view the ideas of state ownership and interventionist regulation in a generally positive light—suggesting a broad level of agreement in Chinese society about what economic functions the state ought to perform—we find a surprising degree of dissatisfaction with how the state actually performs some of these roles. Our results show that the urban young are more inclined to skeptical appraisals, raising the question of how the Chinese Communist Party’s legitimation strategy will fare under conditions of inter-generational value change.
Keywords: Authoritarianism, State Ownership, Market Regulation, Performance Legitimacy, Legitimation, China
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