The Nature of Ideology in Urban China

42 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2017 Last revised: 14 Feb 2018

See all articles by Jason Wu

Jason Wu

Indiana University

Tianguang Meng

Tsinghua University

Date Written: August 22, 2017


A foundational question in political behavior is whether the public possesses structured political preferences, something we can call ideology. The nature of ideology under authoritarian rule is particularly mysterious. In this paper, we examine the structure of ideology in Chinese public opinion using a nationally representative urban survey. We show that ideology in China is organized around a left-right economic dimension and an authoritarian-democratic political dimension, and that the most politically sophisticated individuals are the least likely to constrain their ideological preferences to one dimension. By analyzing the correlates of ideology, we see that younger and better-educated individuals are the most likely to favor free markets, and that while members of the Communist Party no longer possess any sort of distinct economic preferences, they are markedly more authoritarian. We argue that individuals can acquire a weakly structured understanding of politics in the absence of open partisan conflict.

Keywords: Ideology, China, Authoritarianism, Public Opinion, Political Sophistication, Ideal Point Estimation

Suggested Citation

Wu, Jason and Meng, Tianguang, The Nature of Ideology in Urban China (August 22, 2017). 21st Century China Center Research Paper No. 2017-08. Available at SSRN: or

Jason Wu

Indiana University ( email )

107 S Indiana Ave
100 South Woodlawn
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Tianguang Meng (Contact Author)

Tsinghua University ( email )

Beijing, 100084

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