Governing by the Internet: Local Governance in the Digital Age
Journal of Chinese Governance 3:1(2018): 67-85. DOI: 10.1080/23812346.2018.1429175
39 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2018
Date Written: March 28, 2018
In what ways has the expansion of the Internet transformed local governance in China? Through analysis of over 2000 leaked official emails from a district-level Internet propaganda office, the article finds that the Internet has served more as a tool to enhance control rather than to improve governance at the local level. In particular, local authorities have prioritized Internet commentating tasks assigned from upper levels while keeping a close watch on negative publicity of both national and local problems. Their occasional responses to online complaints are often more likely meant to satisfy superiors and pacify the public rather than to address citizens’ concerns. Such a “ruling by the Internet” strategy may bring short-term gains such as preserving social stability on the surface, but may harm the regime in the long run with accumulated social dissatisfaction.
Keywords: China, Internet, local governance, responsiveness, accountability, control
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