Why Does a One-Party Regime Promote Civil Society? The Case of China's Homeowner Associations
54 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2021
Date Written: November 6, 2021
Conventional wisdom holds that one-party regimes are intrinsically hostile to civil society because organized citizens can threaten the regime's political dominance. Contrary to this view, we argue that autocracies may tolerate, and sometimes even actively promote, genuinely voluntary civil groups when those groups can help the state efficiently resolve intra-societal distributional conflicts arising from economic modernization. Using China’s homeowner associations as a case, we demonstrate that local governments are more likely to promulgate policies that encourage the development of self-organized homeowner associations when citizens frequently call upon the authorities to intervene and adjudicate their disputes with property development and management companies. Additional analyses, including an instrumental variables estimation, suggest that the relationship is likely to be causal. These findings highlight the competitive aspect of civil society organizations and offer a more nuanced interpretation of their possible linkages with the political authority.
Keywords: civil society, one-party regime, intra-societal conflict, homeowner association, China
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