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
Date Written: 2020
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: Suggested Citation