Responsiveness and feedback under authoritarianism : the public, city governments, and air pollution in China




Buchanan, Ross Ardley

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Recent scholarship on authoritarian responsiveness has found limited, ad hoc responsiveness to public concern by local governments in China. However, almost nothing is known about the outcomes of this responsiveness. We do not know if the outcomes are ever substantively meaningful for the public, nor whether they “feed back” on public concern in authoritarian systems. To address this gap, I propose a novel responsiveness-feedback model with outcomes, and apply it to air pollution in Chinese cities because of the issue’s importance and objectively measurable severity. I estimate the relationships between pubic concern, government action, and air pollution levels in 273 cities from 2013-2015 using structural equation models to account for feedback, and find evidence of substantively meaningful responsiveness and outcomes-based feedback. I speculate that our model also applies to other topic areas that can be addressed by local governments and have outcomes the public can directly observe.



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