Economic Legitimation in a New Era: Public Attitudes About State Ownership and Market Regulation

The China Quarterly

27 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2017 Last revised: 21 Apr 2020

See all articles by Sarah Eaton

Sarah Eaton

University of Goettingen (Gottingen)

Reza Hasmath

University of Alberta - Department of Political Science

Date Written: 2020

Abstract

Autocrats typically seek public support on the basis of economic growth-promotion and redistribution policies, and China is no exception. As important as these factors are for authoritarian resilience, we argue that economic legitimation is a more complex phenomenon than has previously been acknowledged. Beyond improvements in material well-being, citizens form judgments about the state’s effectiveness in carrying out a variety of economic roles beyond growth-promotion and they also care about 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—perceptions of how the state actually carries out these roles are more mixed. Our results show that the urban young are especially inclined to critical evaluations, 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, Legitimation, China

Suggested Citation

Eaton, Sarah and Hasmath, Reza, Economic Legitimation in a New Era: Public Attitudes About State Ownership and Market Regulation (2020). The China Quarterly. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2984141 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2984141

Sarah Eaton

University of Goettingen (Gottingen) ( email )

Wilhelmsplatz 1
Göttingen, 37073
Germany

Reza Hasmath (Contact Author)

University of Alberta - Department of Political Science ( email )

10-16 Henry Marshall Tory Building
Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2H4
Canada

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