The Department of Political Science presents four talks on the politics of China

The Zeal of the Outgroup: Loyalty Signaling and the Variation in Bureaucratic Compliance in Modern China

Wednesday, March 20, 9:15 – 10:30 a.m., Mather House 100

Juan Qian, Instructor of Political Science, The University of Chicago

Why are certain bureaucrats in China more enthusiastic than others in executing tasks assigned by the leader? In this talk, Juan Qian will explain the variation in bureaucratic compliance. He argues that officials considered less trustworthy by the leader due to their backgrounds are more likely to carry out tasks more fervently to signal loyalty. Drawing on empirical evidence from historical and contemporary China, he will show that bureaucrats from “outgroup” factions—those with a tainted background or unfamiliar with the leader— paradoxically tend to be more heavy-handed in task execution. During the talk, he will discuss how these findings reveal the underlying logic of policy implementation in China.

When Propaganda Resonates

Friday, March 22, 9:15 – 10:30 a.m., Mather House 100

Xiaoxiao Shen, Postdoctoral Associate, Yale University

The existing literature on propaganda in authoritarian systems is largely focused on top-down propaganda strategies, such as whether propaganda persuades or intimidates, and how effective different sources of propaganda and types of propaganda content are. This research instead examines propaganda from the bottom-up perspective, looking into how the unique traits of those who are exposed to propaganda influence its effectiveness. Primarily this literature examines demographics like education levels, family backgrounds, political awareness, and whether the individual lives in an urban or rural area. However, this paper proposes a novel bottom-up perspective by analyzing the power of people’s deep-seeded psychological yearnings to impact propaganda effectiveness. It strives to answer the question of how propaganda works by resonating with the psychological needs that people who are exposed to the propaganda have. Various methods were used, including two series of online survey experiments, interviews, a virtual lab-in-the-field mobile app (which was developed by this research scholar) experiment, and text analysis derived from state news media. Using China as a case study example, two studies conducted in this paper found that as each person has their own different psychological needs, propaganda works the best when the psychological need it is designed to appeal to matches the psychological need an individual strongly feels. And it is unlikely — at least in the short term — to change individuals’ psychological needs enough to the point that we can alter their information-seeking behaviors and pro-regime attitudes. Propaganda works mostly through resonating with people’s underlying psychological needs, but less so through situationally shaping people’s temporary psychological states.

How China Harnessed the Silicon Valley Model

Monday, March 25, 9:15 – 10:30 a.m., Mather House 100

Yan Xu, Postdoctoral Fellow in International and Public Affairs, Brown University

With a statist political economy, China has surprisingly created a vibrant tech startup sector, including the world’s second largest venture capital market. Drawing from extensive fieldwork, this project examines the rise of a state-guided startup sector in China and its impact on the country’s development in high-tech. It shows how the Chinese state harnessed the “Silicon Valley model” of startups and venture capital for industrial policy and how this novel form of intervention encouraged niche creation in industries with high entry barriers.

Meritocracy as Authoritarian Co-Optation: Political Selection and Upward Mobility in China

Wednesday, March 27, 11:30 – 12:45 p.m., Thwing 201

Hanzhang Liu, Visiting Fellow, Carnegie Mellon

Why does an authoritarian regime adopt meritocracy in its political selection? Hanzhang Liu argues that meritocracy can be employed by the regime to co-opt large numbers of ordinary citizens by providing them with an opportunity of socioeconomic advancement instead of income redistribution. Focusing on the civil service examination in contemporary China, she examines how this meritocratic selection has shaped the relationship between college graduates and the Chinese regime. She finds that the exam boosts college graduates’ perceived upward mobility, which in turn weakens their demand for redistribution even in the face of growing inequality. These findings point to an alternative mode of authoritarian co-optation and highlight the role of upward mobility in regime stability.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *