Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Concealing Corruption: How Chinese Officials Distort Upward Reporting of Online Grievances

  • JENNIFER PAN (a1) and KAIPING CHEN (a1)
Abstract

A prerequisite for the durability of authoritarian regimes as well as their effective governance is the regime’s ability to gather reliable information about the actions of lower-tier officials. Allowing public participation in the form of online complaints is one approach authoritarian regimes have taken to improve monitoring of lower-tier officials. In this paper, we gain rare access to internal communications between a monitoring agency and upper-level officials in China. We show that citizen grievances posted publicly online that contain complaints of corruption are systematically concealed from upper-level authorities when they implicate lower-tier officials or associates connected to lower-tier officials through patronage ties. Information manipulation occurs primarily through omission of wrongdoing rather than censorship or falsification, suggesting that even in the digital age, in a highly determined and capable regime where reports of corruption are actively and publicly voiced, monitoring the behavior of regime agents remains a challenge.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Jennifer Pan, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, Building 120, Room 110 450 Serra Mall, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-2050 (jenpan.com).
Kaiping Chen, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Communication, Building 120, Room 110450 Serra Mall, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-2050
Footnotes
Hide All

Our thanks to Jianghong An, Rita Lu, Yanchen Song, Feiya Suo, Zhiheng Xu for excellent research assistance; to Steven Balla, Peter Lorentzen, Guillermo Rosas, Lily Tsai, the SMAPP Global meeting, and Bay Area China Social Science Workshop participants for their extremely helpful comments and suggestions; and to the Stanford Asia-Pacific Scholars Fund, Stanford China Fund, and Stanford IRiSS Faculty Fellows Program for research support.

Footnotes
References
Hide All
Cai, Yongshun. 2000. “Between State and Peasant: Local Cadres and Statistical Reporting in Rural China.” The China Quarterly 163: 783805.
Cai, Yongshun. 2013. “Information Collection and Anticorruption in China.” In Elites and Governance in China, eds. Zang, Xiaowei and Kou, Chien wen. New York: Routledge, 136–52.
Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. 2016. “Zhongguo gongchandang dangnei jiandu tiaoli[China Communist Party Internal Supervision Regulations].”.
Central Propaganda Department. 2009. Wangluo Yuqing Xinxi Gongzuo Lilun yu Shiwu [Theories and Guidance on Online Public Sentiment]. Xuexi chuban she.
Chang, Jonathan, Boyd-Graber, Jordan L., Gerrish, Sean, Wang, Chong, and Blei, David M.. 2009. “Reading Tea Leaves: How Humans Interpret Topic Models.” In Nips, Vol. 31, pp. 19.
Chen, Jidong, Pan, Jennifer, and Xu, Yiqing. 2016. “Sources of Authoritarian Responsiveness: A Field Experiment in China.” American Journal of Political Science 60 (2): 383400.
Chen, Xi. 2009. “Power of Troublemaking: Chinese Petitioners’ Tactics and Their Efficacy.” Comparative Politics 41 (4): 451–71.
China Daily. 2015. “New Anti-Corruption App Sparks Instant Flood of Public Reports.” Accessed December 13, 2016. http://bit.ly/1GhcZQl.
Cyberspace Administration of China. 2017. “Hulianwang Xinwen Xinxi Fuwu Guanli Guiding [Internet News and Information Service Management Regulations].” Beijing, China.
Dimitrov, Martin K. 2014a. “Internal Government Assessments of the Quality of Governance in China.” Studies in Comparative International Development, 123.
Dimitrov, Martin K. 2014b. “What the Party Wanted to Know Citizen Complaints as a “Barometer of Public Opinion” in Communist Bulgaria.” East European Politics & Societies 28 (2): 271–95.
Distelhorst, Greg, and Hou, Yue. 2017. “Constituency Service Under Nondemocratic Rule: Evidence from China.” Journal of Politics 79 (3).
Economist. 2017. “Chinese Officials Use Hotlines to Take the Public’s Pulse.” Accessed August 20, 2017. http://whr.tn/1imqqlx.
Edin, Maria. 2003. “State Capacity and Local agent Control in China: CPP Cadre Management from a Township Perspective.” China Quarterly 173: 3552.
Fishkin, James S., He, Baogang, Luskin, Robert C., and Siu, Alice. 2010. “Deliberative Democracy in an Unlikely Place: Deliberative Polling in China.” British Journal of Political Science 40 (2): 435–48.
Freedom House. 2015. Freedom in the World 2015: The Annual Survey of Political Rights and Civil Liberties. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Gao, Jie. 2016. “‘Bypass the Lying Mouths’: How Does the CCP Tackle Information Distortion at Local Levels?The China Quarterly. p. doi:10.1017/S0305741016001491.
Gunitsky, Seva. 2015. “Corrupting the Cyber-Commons: Social Media as a Tool of Autocratic Stability.” Perspectives on Politics 13 (01): 4254.
He, Baogang, and Warren, Mark. 2011. “Authoritarian Deliberation: The Deliberative Turn in Chinese Political Development.” Perspectives on Politics 9 (2): 269–89.
Henochowicz, Anne. 2014. “Thousands of Local Internet Propaganda Emails Leaked.” China Digital Times. http://j.mp/leakedEmails.
Hillman, Ben. 2010. “Factions and Spoils: Examining Political Behavior within the Local State in China.” The China Journal 64: 118.
Hsu, S. Philip, Zhao, Suisheng, and Wu, Yushan. 2011. In Search of China’s Development Model: Beyond the Beijing Consensus. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
Huang, Yasheng. 1995. “Administrative Monitoring in China.” The China Quarterly 143: 828–43.
Jiang, Junyan, Meng, Tianguang, and Zhang, Qing. 2016. “Closing the Influence Gap: The Policy Consequences of Online Participation in China.” APSA Annual Meeting.
Kalathil, Shanthi, and Boas, Taylor C.. 2010. Open Networks, Closed Regimes: the Impact of the Internet on Authoritarian Rule. Washington D.C.: Carnegie Endowment.
King, Gary, Pan, Jennifer, and Roberts, Margaret E.. 2013. “How Censorship in China Allows Government Criticism but Silences Collective Expression.” American Political Science Review 107 (2): 118.
Kou, Chien-wen, and Tsai, Wen-Hsuan. 2014. “‘Sprinting with Small Steps’ Towards Promotion: Solutions for the Age Dilemma in the CCP Cadre Appointment System.” China Journal 71: 153–71.
Kung, James Kai-Sing, and Chen, Shou. 2011. “The Tragedy of the Nomenklatura: Career Incentives and Political Radicalism during China’s Great Leap Famine.” American Political Science Review 105 (1): 2745.
Li, Lianjiang. 2004. “Political Trust in Rural China.” Modern China 30 (2): 228–58.
Li, Ruichang. 2012. Zhengfujian Wangluo Zhili: Chuizhi Guanli Bumen Yu Difang Zhengfujian Guanxi Yanjiu [Network Governance: Top-down Management of Departments and Inter-Governmental Relationships]. Shanghai, China: Fudan University Press.
Lieberthal, Kenneth, and Lampton, David. 1992. Bureaucracy, Politics, and Decision Making in Post-Mao China. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Lorentzen, Peter. 2013. “Regularizing Rioting: Permitting Protest in an Authoritarian Regime.” Quarterly Journal of Political Science 8 (2): 127–58.
Lucas, Christopher, Nielsen, Richard A., Roberts, Margaret E., Stewart, Brandon M., Storer, Alex, and Tingley, Dustin. 2015. “Computer-Assisted Text Analysis for Comparative Politics.” Political Analysis p. mpu019.
Ma, Jun. 2012. “The Rise of Social Accountability in China.” Australian Journal of Public Administration 71 (2): 111–21.
MacKinnon, Rebecca. 2012. Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle For Internet Freedom. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Magaloni, Beatriz. 2008. “Credible Power-Sharing and the Longevity of Authoritarian Rule.” Comparative Political Studies 41 (4/5): 715–41.
Magaloni, Beatriz, and Kricheli, Ruth. 2010. “Political Order and One-Party Rule.” Annual Review of Political Science 13: 123–43.
Mai, Bo, and Liber, Tim. 2015. “Web Tracking with Chinese Characteristics.” 65th Annual International Communication Association Conference.
Manion, Melanie. 2016. Information for Autocrats: Representation in Chinese Local Congresses. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Meng, Tianguang, Pan, Jennifer, and Yang, Ping. 2017. “Conditional Receptivity to Citizen Participation: Evidence from a Survey Experiment in China.” Comparative Political Studies 50 (4): 399433.
Michael, Gabriel J. Forthcoming. “Who’s Afraid of Wikileaks? Missed Opportunities in Political Science Research.” Review of Policy Research.
Morozov, Evgeny. 2012. The Net Delusion: the Dark Side of Internet Freedom. New York, NY: Public Affairs.
Nathan, Andrew. 2003. “Authoritarian Resilience.” Journal of Democracy 14 (1): 617.
National Grassroots Party Work Key Textbook. 2013. Zuixin Dang de Xuanchuan Gongzuo Caozuo Fangfa yu Chuangxin Shiwu [Latest Guidelines and Procedures on How to Perform Propaganda Work]. Beijing, China: Hongqi Press.
Noesselt, Nele. 2014. “Microblogs and the Adaptation of the Chinese Party-State’s Governance Strategy.” Governance 27 (3): 449–68.
O’Brien, Kevin, and Li, Lianjiang. 1999. “Selective Policy Implementation in Rural China.” Comparative Politics 31 (2): 167–86.
O’Brien, Kevin J., and Li, Lianjiang. 2000. “Accommodating “democracy” in a one-party state: Introducing village elections in China.” The China Quarterly 162: 465–89.
O’Donnell, Guillermo. 1999. Horizontal Accountability in New Democracies. In The Self-Restraining State: Power and Accountability in New Democracies, eds. Diamond, Larry, Schedler, Andreas, and Plattner, Marc F.. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc., pp. 2951.
OECD. 2013. OECD e-Government Studies: Egypt 2013. Paris, France: OECD Publishing.
Oi, Jean C. 1995. “The Role of the Local State in China’s Transitional Economy.” The China Quarterly 144: 1132–49.
Olken, Benjamin A. 2007. “Monitoring Corruption: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Indonesia.” Journal of Political Economy 115 (2): 200–49.
Pan, Jennifer. Forthcoming. “How Chinese Officials Use the Internet to Construct their Public Image.” Political Science Research and Methods.
Pan, Jennifer, and Chen, Kaiping. 2018. “Replication Data for Concealing Corruption: How Chinese Officials Distort Upward Reporting of Online Grievances.” https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/2HRRC7.
Park, Albert, and Wang, Sangui. 2001. “China’s Poverty Statistics.” China Economic Review 12 (4): 384–98.
Pearce, Katy E., and Kendzior, Sarah. 2012. “Networked Authoritarianism and Social Media in Azerbaijan.” Journal of Communication 62 (2): 283–98.
Qiang, Xiao. 2011. “The Battle for the Chinese Internet.” Journal of Democracy 22 (2): 4761.
Qin, Bei, Strömberg, David, and Wu, Yanhui. 2016. “Media Bias in China.” Working paper.
Qin, Bei, Stromberg, David, and Wu, Yanhui. 2017a. “Why Does China Allow Freer Social Media? Protests versus Surveillance and Propaganda.” CEPR working paper DP11778.
Qin, Bei, Stromberg, David, and Wu, Yanhui. 2017b. “Why Does China Allow Freer Social Media? Protests versus Surveillance and Propaganda.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 31 (1): 117–40.
Roberts, Margaret E., Stewart, Brandon M., Tingley, Dustin, Lucas, Chris, Leder-Luis, Jetson, Albertson, Bethany, Gadarian, Shana, and Rand, David. 2014. “Topic Models for Open Ended Survey Responses with Applications to Experiments.” American Journal of Political Science 58: 1064–82.
Roberts, Margaret E., Stewart, Brandon M., Tingley, Dustin, and Airoldi, Edoardo M.. 2013. “The Structural Topic Model and Applied Social Science.” In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems Workshop on Topic Models: Computation, Application, and Evaluation.
Rodan, Garry, and Jayasuriya, Kanishka. 2007. “The Technocratic Politics of Administrative Participation: Case Studies of Singapore and Vietnam.” Democratization 14 (5): 795815.
Sonnad, Nikhil. 2014. “Hacked emails reveal China’s elaborate and absurd internet propaganda machine.” Quartz. http://j.mp/Sonnad.
Stockmann, Daniela. 2013. Media Commercialization and Authoritarian Rule in China. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Truex, Rory. 2014. “The Returns to Office in a ‘Rubber Stamp’ Parliament.” American Political Science Review 108 (02): 235– 51.
Truex, Rory. 2016. Making Autocracy Work. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Tsai, Lily. 2008. “Understanding the Falsification of Village Income Statistics.” The China Quarterly 196: 805–26.
Wallace, Jeremy L. 2016. “Juking the Stats? Authoritarian Information Problems in China.” British Journal of Political Science 46 (01): 1129.
Whiting, Susan. 2004. “The Cadre Evaluation System at the Grass Roots: The Paradox of Party Rule.” In Holding China Together: Diversity and National Integration in the post-Deng Era, eds. Yang, Dali and Naughton, Barry. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 101–19.
Whyte, Martin. 2010. Myth of the Social Volcano: Perceptions of Inequality and Distributive Injustice in Contemporary China. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Wintrobe, Ronald. 1998. The Political Economy of Dictatorship. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Xinhua. 2012. “China’s craze for online anti-corruption.” Accessed September 10, 2016. http://bit.ly/2blgIYz.
Yan, Ye, and Peng, Min. 2010. “The Unbalance Political Trust Distribution between Central Government and Local Government in China.” The Journal of Gansu Administration Institute 3 (008).
Yong, Hu. 2005. Blogs in China: China Media Project Case Study. Technical report, Peking University.
Zhan, Weiping, and Yu, Yongda. 2011. “Study of the Relationship Between Cadre Promotion and Career Path.” Human Resources Development of China 7: 75–8.
Zhang, Jian, Giles, John, and Rozelle, Scott. 2012. “Does it Pay to be a Cadre? Estimating the Returns to being a Local Official in Rural China.” Journal of Comparative Economics 40 (3): 337–56.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×
Type Description Title
PDF
Supplementary materials

Pan and Chen supplementary material
Supplemental Appendix

 PDF (92 KB)
92 KB

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 18
Total number of PDF views: 148 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 840 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 6th June 2018 - 25th June 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.