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The Microfoundations of Authoritarian Responsiveness: E-Participation, Social Unrest and Public Policy in China

Project description

Shedding light on the micro-foundations of regime responsiveness

In a country known for its remarkable economic success, China's socialist roots and the Communist Party's enduring power pose an intriguing paradox. The key lies in the seemingly high rates of public support, despite extreme income inequality and growing social unrest. Could China's rapid improvement in e-participation be the missing link? The ERC-funded RESPONSIVENESS project uncovers the consequences of enhanced e-participation in China. By studying how China's rulers incorporate social interests into policymaking and how these decisions impact the public's propensity to voice their demands, RESPONSIVENESS delves into the intricate interplay of online complaints, social unrest, and public policy. The findings will offer valuable insights into how the Communist Party defers the antagonism that led to revolutions in other nations.


"China’s success story of the past three decades is seen as an anomaly. Market-based reforms have generated an economic system that can hardly be described as socialist anymore, but the Communist Party of China remains in power. Although social unrest is on the rise, the CCP enjoys the consent of the overwhelming majority of its people. Most agree that China’s economic performance is the key to solving this apparent puzzle, but how can extraordinary high rates of public support be maintained in a country where income inequality is so extreme?
We believe that the answer to this question lies in the responsiveness of China’s authoritarian one-party regime to popular demands and grievances, a capability that has so far been attributed only to democratic regimes. We further believe that the rapid improvement of e-participation, the opportunity to evaluate public services on the Internet, has greatly facilitated regime responsiveness - China’s score in the United Nations e-participation index is higher than the European average. We suggest, however, that as the government increasingly calibrates public policy towards satisfying the demand of China’s netizens, the ""technologically illiterate"" are forced to express their demands in public protests and other forms of social unrest.
The proposed project sheds light on the intended and unintended consequences of enhanced e-participation in China by exploring which social interests China’s rulers incorporate into public policy making, and how these decisions influence the propensity of particular social groups to voice their demands by either participating online or taking to the streets. By exploring the “complex system” in which online complaints, social unrest and public policy interact, the project provides insights into the micro-foundations of regime responsiveness in China. It thereby increases our knowledge of how the CCP seeks to defer the antagonism that prompted the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and Syria."



Net EU contribution
€ 1 292 440,00
Universitatsring 1
1010 Wien

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Ostösterreich Wien Wien
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (1)