Passive Political Legitimacy: How the Chinese Online Sphere Went from Challenging to Supporting the State within the Past Decade
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CitationZhang, Yinxian. 2022. “Passive Political Legitimacy: How the Chinese Online Sphere Went from Challenging to Supporting the State within the Past Decade.” The China Journal 88, no.1: 29-54.
AbstractThe Chinese government’s rhetoric and policies have become increasingly assertive in recent years, leading some observers abroad to see China as a threat to democracy and the international order. However, less attention has been devoted to the attitudes that Chinese people themselves hold toward democracy. How does the Chinese public view democracy in light of transformations occurring in both the domestic and international environments? This paper examines a novel dataset of Chinese social media posts published between 2009 and 2021, in order to investigate changes in popular attitudes toward democracy. Results show that while China’s online sphere was once dominated by liberal voices, expressions of doubt about liberal democracy have become more pronounced since 2013. While tightened state control over online speech has been an important factor in this outcome, people’s exposure to unsatisfactory political realities in Western democracies has also played a significant role. Chinese people’s idealized expectations vis-à-vis the promises of liberal democracy have been challenged by perceptions that democratic regimes have delivered subpar performances and engage in “double standards” when dealing with China. This disillusionment with democracy has translated into popular support for the Chinese government, bringing about what the paper identifies as the passive political legitimacy of the Chinese regime.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37373015