Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Media, Protest Diffusion, and Authoritarian Resilience*

  • Haifeng Huang, Serra Boranbay-Akan and Ling Huang
Abstract

Do authoritarian governments always censor news about protests to prevent unrest from spreading? Existing research on authoritarian politics stresses the danger that information spread within the society poses for a regime. In particular, media and Internet reports of social unrest are deemed to threaten authoritarian rule, as such reports may incite more protests and thus spread instability. We show that such reasoning is incomplete if social protests are targeted at local officials. Allowing media the freedom to report local protests may indeed lead to protest diffusion, but the increased probability of citizen protest also has two potential benefits for the regime: (1) identifying and addressing more social grievances, thus releasing potential revolutionary pressure on the regime; (2) forcing local officials to reduce misbehavior, thus reducing underlying social grievances. For authoritarian governments whose survival is vulnerable to citizen grievances, allowing the media to report social protests aimed at local governments can therefore enhance regime stability and protect its interests under many circumstances. We construct a game-theoretic model to analyze the problem and illustrate the argument with examples from China.

Copyright
Footnotes
Hide All
*

Haifeng Huang is an Assistant Professor of Political Science in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts, University of California, Merced, 5200 N Lake Road, Merced, CA 95343 (hhuang24@ucmerced.edu). Serra Boranbay-Akan is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics in the Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University, 5000 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 (serra@andrew.cmu.edu). Ling Huang is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics, University of Connecticut, 365 Fairfield Way, U-1063, Storrs, CT 06269 (ling.huang@uconn.edu). The authors thank Courtenay Conrad, Scott Gehlbach, Arturas Rozenas, Milan Svolik, Anna Bassi, Mike Munger, Benjamin Nyblade, Molly Roberts, David Soskice, Michael Thies, and Devesh Tiwari for very helpful comments. Previous versions of the article were presented at the 2010, 2011 and 2015 MPSA meetings, the 2015 ISA meeting, the SCPI-IX meeting, and the 2015 APSA meeting. To view supplementary material for this article, please visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/psrm.2016.25

Footnotes
References
Hide All
Allen-Ebrahimian, Bethany. 2015. ‘Explosion of Once-Scuttled Chemical Plant Riles China’s Web’. Foreign Policy, 6 April. Available at http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/04/06/chemical-explosion-china-px-nimby-environment-weibo/.
Bueno de Mesquita, Bruce, and Downs, George W.. 2005. ‘Development and Democracy’. Foreign Affairs 84(5):7786.
Cai, Yongshun. 2010. Collective Resistance in China: Why Popular Protests Succeed or Fail . Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Chen, Chih-Jou Jay. 2013. ‘Policing Protest in China: Findings from Newspaper Data’. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Asian Studies. San Diego, CA, 21–24 March.
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, Jidong, and Xu, Yiqing. 2014. ‘Authoritarian Governance With Public Communication’. Working Paper.
Chen, Jidong, and Xu, Yiqing. Forthcoming. ‘Information Manipulation and Reform in Authoritarian Regimes’. Political Science Research and Methods. Available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/psrm.2015.21.
Chen, Xi. 2012. Social Protest and Contentious Authoritarianism in China. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Chung, Jongpil. 2008. ‘Comparing Online Activities in China and South Korea: The Internet and the Political Regime’. Asian Survey 48(5):727751.
Chung, Kelly. 2012. ‘China: Wukan Elections Continue and Inspire’. Global Voices Online, 19 February.
Duggan, Jennifer. 2013. ‘Kunming Pollution Protest is Tip of Rising Chinese Environmental Activism’. The Guardian, 16 May. Available at http://www.theguardian.com/environment/chinas-choice/2013/may/16/kunming-pollution-protest-chinese-environmental-activism.
Edmond, Chris. 2013. ‘Information Manipulation, Coordination, and Regime Change’. Review of Economic Studies 80(4):14221458.
Egorov, Georgy, Guriev, Sergei, and Sonin, Konstantin. 2009. ‘Why Resource-Poor Dictators Allow Freer Media: A Theory and Evidence from Panel Data’. American Political Science Review 103(4):645668.
Fox, Jonathan. 1992. The Politics of Food in Mexico. Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press.
Fox, Jonathan. 2015. ‘Social Accountability: What Does the Evidence Really Say?’. World Development 72:346361.
Gandhi, Jennifer. 2008. Political Institutions Under Dictatorship. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Gehlbach, Scott, and Sonin, Konstantin. 2014. ‘Government Control of the Media’. Journal of Public Economics 118:163171.
Gehlbach, Scott, and Keefer, Philip. 2011. ‘Investment Without Democracy: Ruling-Party Institutionalization and Credible Commitment in Autocracies’. Journal of Comparative Economics 39(2):123139.
Guriev, S. Sergei, and Treisman, Daniel. 2015. ‘How Modern Dictators Survive: An Informational Theory of the New Authoritarianism’. NBER Working Paper No. 21136, Cambridge, MA.
Hale, Henry E. 2013. ‘Regime Change Cascades: What We Have Learned from the 1848 Revolutions to the 2011 Arab Uprisings’. Annual Review of Political Science 16:331353.
Hassid, Jonathan. 2012. ‘Safety Valve or Pressure Cooker? Blogs in Chinese Political Life’. Journal of Communication 62(2):212230.
Hess, Steve. 2015. ‘Foreign Media Coverage and Protest Outcomes in China: The Case of the 2011 Wukan Rebellion’. Modern Asian Studies 49(1):177203.
Hollyer, James R., Rosendorff, B. Peter, and Vreeland, James Raymond. 2015. ‘Transparency, Protest and Autocratic Instability’. American Political Science Review 109(4):764784.
Huang, Haifeng. 2015. ‘Propaganda as Signaling’. Comparative Politics 47(4):419437.
Huntington, Samuel. 1991. The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.
Jacobs, Andrew. 2012a. ‘Chinese Officials Find Misbehavior Now Carries Cost’. New York Times, 26 December. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/26/world/asia/corrupt-chinese-officials-draw-unusual-publicity.html.
Jacobs, Andrew. 2012b. ‘Residents Vote in Chinese Village at Center of Protest’. New York Times, 2 February. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/02/world/asia/residents-vote-in-chinese-village-at-center-of-protest.html.
Jacobs, Andrew, and Ansfield, Jonathan. 2011. ‘Catching Scent of Revolution, China Moves to Snip Jasmine’. New York Times, 11 May. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/11/world/asia/11jasmine.html.
Johnson, Ian. 2011. ‘Do China’s Village Protests Help the Regime?’ The New York Review of Books Blog, 22 December.
Johnson, Thomas. 2010. ‘Environmentalism and NIMBYism in China: Promoting a Rules-Based Approach to Public Participation’. Environmental Politics 19(3):430448.
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):326343.
Kristof, Nicolas D. 2006. ‘In China it is******* vs. Netizens’. New York Times, 20 June. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/20/opinion/20Kristof.html.
Kuran, Timur. 1991. ‘Now Out of Never: The Element of Surprise in the East European Revolution of 1989’. World Politics 44(1):748.
Lagerkvista, Johan. 2015. ‘The Unknown Terrain of Social Protests in China: “Exit”, “Voice”, “Loyalty”, and “Shadow”’. Journal of Civil Society 11(2):137153.
Larson, Christina. 2011. ‘The New Epicenter of China’s Discontent’. Foreign Policy, 23 August. Available at http://foreignpolicy.com/2011/08/23/the-new-epicenter-of-chinas-discontent/.
Lau, Mimi. 2012. ‘Guangzhou Land Rally Erupts Amid Key Meeting’. South China Morning Post, 18 January. Available at http://www.scmp.com/article/990414/guangzhou-land-rally-erupts-amid-key-meeting.
Lee, Kingsyhon, and Ho, Ming-Sho. 2014. ‘The Maoming Anti-PX Protest of 2014’. China Perspectives 2014(3):3339.
Leung, Alison, and Tang, Sisi. 2011. ‘Chinese Official Denies Reports of Deaths at Haimen Protest’. Reuters, 21 December.
Li, Cheng. 2006. ‘Think National, Blame Local: Central-Provincial Dynamics in the Hu Era’. China Leadership Monitor 17:124.
Lieberthal, Kenneth G., and Oksenberg, Michel. 1988. Policy Making in China: Leaders, Structures, and Processes. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Little, Andrew. 2016. ‘Communication Technology and Protest’. Journal of Politics 78(1):152166.
Liu, Jun. 2013. ‘Mobile Communication, Popular Protests and Citizenship in China’. Modern Asian Studies 47(3):9951018.
Liu, Xianghui, and Zhou, Lina. 2007. ‘Initiators of the Protect Xiamen Campaign Speak About the Whole Story of the Xiamen PX Incident’. China Newsweek, 28 December. Available at http://news.sina.com.cn/c/2007-12-28/101314622140.shtml, accessed 22 April 2016.
Liu, Yanxun. 2008. ‘Handing Chongqing’s Taxi Strike: How to Seize the “Golden 48 Hours” (Chongqing Chuzuche Bayun Chuli: “Huangjin 48 Xiaoshi” Ruhe Bawo)’. China Newsweek, 30 December. Available at http://www.chinanews.com/gn/news/2008/12-30/1507728.shtml, accessed 22 April 2016.
Lohmann, Susanne. 1994. ‘The Dynamics of Information Cascades—The Monday Demonstrations in Leipzig, East Germany, 1981-91’. World Politics 47(1):42101.
Lorentzen, Peter. 2015. ‘China’s Controlled Burn: Information Management and State-Society Relations under Authoritarianism’. Book Manuscript.
Lorentzen, Peter L. 2013. ‘Regularizing Rioting: Permitting Public Protest in an Authoritarian Regime’. Quarterly Journal of Political Science 8(2):127158.
Lorentzen, Peter L. 2014. ‘China’s Strategic Censorship’. American Journal of Political Science 58(2):402414.
McCubbins, Mathew D., and Schwartz, Thomas. 1984. ‘Congressional Oversight Overlooked: Police Patrols Versus Fire Alarms’. American Journal of Political Science 28(1):165179.
Myerson, Roger B. 2008. ‘The Autocrat’s Credibility Problem and Foundations of the Constitutional State’. American Political Science Review 102(1):125139.
Nathan, Andrew J. 2003. ‘Authoritarian Resilience’. Journal of Democracy 14(1):617.
O’Brien, Kevin J. 1996. ‘Rightful Resistance’. World Politics 49(1):3155.
Orlik, Tom. 2011. ‘Unrest Grows as Economy Booms’. Wall Street Journal, 26 September. Available at http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424053111903703604576587070600504108.
Osnos, Evan. 2012. ‘Brother Wristwatch and Grandpa Wen: Chinese Kleptocracy’. New Yorker, 25 October. Available at http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/brother-wristwatch-and-grandpa-wen-chinese-kleptocracy.
Page, Jeremy. 2011. ‘Call for Protests Unnerves Beijing’. Wall Street Journal, 21 February. Available at http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703498804576156203874160350.
Perry, Elizabeth. 2010. ‘Popular Protest: Playing by the Rules’. In Joseph Fewsmith (ed.), China Today, China Tomorrow: Domestic Politics, Economy, and Society, 1128. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Shadmehr, Mehdi, and Bernhardt, Dan. 2011. ‘Collective Action With Uncertain Payoffs: Coordination, Public Signals and Punishment Dilemmas’. American Political Science Review 105(4):829851.
Shadmehr, Mehdi, and Bernhardt, Dan. 2015. ‘State Censorship’. American Economic Journal: Microeconomics 7(2):280307.
Shambaugh, David. 2008. China’s Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Spegele, Brian. 2012. ‘Protests Halt Work on China Plant’. Wall Street Journal, 28 October. Available at http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970204840504578084620690324436.
Steinhardt, H. Christoph. Forthcoming. ‘Discursive Accommodation: Popular Protest and Strategic Elite Communication in China’. European Political Science Review.
Sullivan, Jonathan. 2014. ‘Chinas Weibo: Is Faster Different?’. New Media & Society 16(1):2437.
Svolik, Milan W. 2012. The Politics of Authoritarian Rule. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Tai, Qiuqing. 2014. ‘China’s Media Censorship: A Dynamic and Diversified Regime’. Journal of East Asian Studies 14(2):185209.
Tong, Jingrong. 2010. ‘The Crisis of the Centralized Media Control Theory: How Local Power Controls Media in China’. Media, Culture & Society 32(6):925942.
Wang, Chen, Wang, Shanshan, Ren, Zhongyuan, Zhu, Yushi, and Yu, Ning. 2013. ‘The Business of Deleting Internet Posts (Shantie Shengyi)’. Caixin New Century, No. 6, 18 February. Available at http://magazine.caixin.com/2013-02-08/100490897.html.
Wong, Stephen. 2008. ‘Taxi Protests Test China’s Tolerance’. Asia Times Online, 11 December. Available at http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/JL11Ad01.html.
Wu, Liwei. 2011. ‘Land Disputes and Clan Conflicts in Wukan Village (Wukan Cun de Tudi Jiufen yu Zongzu ZhiZheng)’. Life Weekly, 20 December. Available at http://www.lifeweek.com.cn/2011/1220/36080.shtml, accessed 22 April 2016.
Xi, Yihao. 2014. ‘Internet Police Bribe Internet Police: Deleting Posts for Superiors (Wangjing Huilu Wangjing: Ti Lingdao Shantie)’. Southern Weekend, 17 April. Available at http://news.ifeng.com/a/20140417/40003237_0.shtml, accessed 22 April 2016.
Xiao, Qiang. 2011. ‘The Battle for the Chinese Internet’. Journal of Democracy 22(2):4761.
Yang, Guobin. 2009. The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Zhang, Tie. 2011. ‘What Does Wukan’s Turn Tell Us? (Wukan Zhuanji Gaosu Women Shenme)’. People’s Daily, 22 December. Available at http://politics.people.com.cn/GB/30178/16678491.html, accessed 22 April 2016.
Zhu, Jingruo. 2007. ‘Xiamen PX Project: Continuation, Suspension, or Relocation (Xiamen PX Xiangmu: Xujian, Tingjian, haishi Qianjian)’. People’s Daily, 19 December. Available at http://cpc.people.com.cn/GB/64093/82429/83083/6671367.html, accessed 22 April 2016.
Recommend this journal

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

Political Science Research and Methods
  • ISSN: 2049-8470
  • EISSN: 2049-8489
  • URL: /core/journals/political-science-research-and-methods
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×
Type Description Title
PDF
Supplementary materials

Huang supplementary material
Appendix

 PDF (157 KB)
157 KB

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed