Peer Reviewed Articles
Information Manipulation and Reform in Authoritarian Regimes
We develop a theory of how an authoritarian regime interactively uses information manipulation, such as propaganda or censorship, and policy improvement to maintain social stability. The government can depict the status quo policy more popularly supported than it actually is, while at the same time please citizens directly by enacting a costly reform. We show that the government's ability of making policy concessions reduces its incentive to manipulate information and improves its credibility. Anticipating a higher chance of policy concessions and less information manipulation, citizens are more likely to believe the government-provided information and support the regime. Our model provides an explanation for the puzzling fact that reform coexists with selective information disclosure in authoritarian countries like China. [PDF, Pre-print, Slides]
with Jidong Chen.
Political Science Research and Methods
, First View (Online), June 2015.
Sources of Authoritarian Responsiveness: A Field Experiment in China
Scholars have established that authoritarian regimes exhibit responsiveness to citizens, but our knowledge of why autocrats respond remains limited. We theorize that responsiveness may stem from rules of the institutionalized party regime, citizen engagement, and a strategy of preferential treatment of a narrow group of supporters. We test the implications of our theory using an online experiment among 2,103 Chinese counties. At baseline, we find that approximately one third of county level governments are responsive to citizen demands expressed online. Threats of collective action and threats of tattling to upper levels of government cause county governments to be considerably more responsive. However, while threats of collective action cause local officials more publicly responsive, threats of tattling do not have this effect. We also find that identifying as loyal, long-standing members of the Communists Party does not increase responsiveness. [PDF, Pre-print, Slides]
with Jidong Chen and Jennifer Pan.
American Journal of Political Science, Early View (Online), August 2015.
Informal Institutions, Collective Action, and Public Goods Expenditure in Rural China
Do informal institutions, rules and norms created and enforced by social groups, promote good local governance in environments of weak democratic or bureaucratic institutions? This question is difficult to answer because of challenges in defining and measuring informal institutions and identifying their causal effects. In the paper, we investigate the effect of lineage groups, one of the most important vehicles of informal institutions in rural China, on local public goods expenditure. Using a panel dataset of 220 Chinese villages from 1986 to 2005, we find that village leaders from the two largest family clans increased local public investment considerably. This association is stronger when the clans appeared to be more cohesive. We also find that clans helped local leaders overcome the collective action problem of financing public goods, but there is little evidence suggesting that they held local leaders accountable. [PDF, Pre-print]
with Yang Yao.
American Political Science Review, Vol. 109, No. 2, pp. 371-91, May 2015.