The Authoritarian Commons: Divergent Paths of Neighborhood Democratization in Three Chinese Megacities

American Journal of Comparative Law, Forthcoming.

66 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2021

See all articles by Shitong Qiao

Shitong Qiao

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law

Date Written: February 7, 2021

Abstract

Can a liberal commons emerge in an authoritarian regime? Based on an in-depth investigation of the ongoing self-governance movement among hundreds of millions of homeowners in China, this research examines the tension between authoritarianism and liberal commons for the first time. Empirically this research reveals a striking contrast: in Shanghai, 94% of condominium complexes have established homeowners’ associations, a kind of liberal commons, compared with 41% in Shenzhen, and only 12% in Beijing. It is posited in this paper that the authoritarian commons (i.e., the dynamic interactions between the authoritarian state and homeowners’ efforts to create a liberal commons in their neighborhoods) features multiple equilibria that depend on the state capacity and the risks posed by the self-governance movement. A highly capable state facing an intermediate degree of risk can make the institutional reforms necessary to accommodate the grassroots democracy. This research of the authoritarian commons brings the state back to the economic theories of property rights, and brings property, and more specifically, space and territorial control to the study of authoritarianism. It also deepens our understanding of authoritarianism and development.

Keywords: Authoritarianism; Liberal Commons; China; Democratization; State Capacity; Infrastructural Power; Homeowners' Associations; Urban Governance

JEL Classification: K11; O43; P26; P21; P25; P32; P37; R23

Suggested Citation

Qiao, Shitong, The Authoritarian Commons: Divergent Paths of Neighborhood Democratization in Three Chinese Megacities (February 7, 2021). American Journal of Comparative Law, Forthcoming. , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3780846 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3780846

Shitong Qiao (Contact Author)

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, Hong Kong
China

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.law.hku.hk/academic_staff/dr-shitong-qiao/

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