An Analysis of Citizens’ Rationality on Community Participation in China
Author: Ming-feng Kuo, Tai-ping Ding
Abstract / Chinese PDF Download
Over the last two decades, Mainland China has promoted the policies of social innovation and encouraged its citizens to participate in community governance in order to improve the capacity of grassroots governance. However, in practice, these policies do not impassion citizens to engage more in community affairs or the process of interest articulation. Most existing literature has focused on the typologies and relevant factors influencing grassroots voting behaviors and rights protection actions, while scant literature has discussed the unique phenomenon of the “silent majority,” which examines why citizens are not willing to participate in community affairs or the process of interest articulation. This article explores the behavioral logic and constraints of why citizens are not willing to engage in the community interest articulation process under China’s post-totalitarian authoritarian regime. Using the rational choice approach and multilevel modeling, this study employed data from the Chinese General Social Survey (CGSS). The analysis highlights several important results. First, the costs-benefits incentive structures are different when citizens make decisions on whether to participate in both the organized association community interest articulation process or the contentious community interest articulation process. The variable of ‘democratic governance value’ only influences citizens’ participation in the process of contentious community interest articulation. Second, the socioeconomic variables of income, accumulated years of education, and party identity showed different effects on the two kinds of community interest articulation processes, thereby demonstrating that citizens’ socioeconomic status under the context of China’s governance do constrain their rationale in terms of choice preferences in community participation. This study enriches our understanding of citizens’ community participation behavior and provides several clues for enhancing community governance capacities and designing public participation processes in Mainland China.